At 3-2, Stanford's played an extra game over the Irish thus far this season. They've also played some fairly good competition in Oregon State, TCU and Arizona State, dropping two out of the three to ASU and TCU. Teams have had some success moving the ball on the Cardinal defense.
Stanford started the season with a 36-28 win over Oregon State. The Cardinal won the game even though they were outgained by the Beavers by almost 200 yards of offense. Two costly OSU interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, and a safety were the difference in the game.
Stanford's offense was mainly on the ground as the Cardinal racked up 210 yards rushing and scored twice on the ground. Starting quarterback Tavita Pritchard threw for just 91 yards on the day and one touchdown.
The Beavers were able to throw for 404 yards on the Stanford defense and averaged 11.9 yards per completion. The two interceptions were the key in this game.
Arizona State also had a lot of success both moving the ball and scoring on Stanford's defense. The Sun Devils rolled up 41 points and 472 yards of offense on Stanford in the second game of the Cardinal's season. ASU did most of their damage through the air throwing for 345 yards and three touchdowns.
Stanford's offense didn't give their defense much help as Cardinal quarterback s managed just 120 yards passing and threw three interceptions on the day.
In game three the Stanford offense sputtered once again amassing just 193 yards of total offense. The Cardinal averaged just 2.4 yards per carry and amassed 71 total yards rushing against a very good TCU rush defense. In fact, the Horned Frogs are currently ranked No. 1 in rush defense and No. 6 in total defense allowing 233 yards per game.
Stanford's usually strong rush defense did give way to TCU's powerful rush offense as the Horned Frogs rolled up 233 yards rushing and four touchdowns on the ground. Neither team threw for many yards in the game, and Stanford did a nice job of holding TCU to just 20-of-36 in passing on the day for 145 yards.
The game was actually tied at halftime in Fort Worth, Texas, but TCU pulled away scoring 17 unanswered points. Stanford's quarterback Tavita Pritchard threw a costly interception at the TCU 12-yard line, and he also fumbled on a TCU sack at his own 10-yard line, and that was the difference in this game.
The Cardinal bounced back after a 1-2 start to pick up their second win of the season with a 23-10 victory over San Jose State. Stanford ran the ball well against another good rush defense in San Jose State, currently ranked No. 26 in rush defense. Stanford ran for 204 yards and averaged 5.7 yards per carry in this game. Toby Gerhart did most of the damage rushing for 152 yards and 6.7 yard per carry.
Stanford's defense did a nice job of shutting down SJSU's run game allowing just 54 yards, but San Jose is not a good rushing team. The strange twist was SJSU completed 23-of-26 passes in this game, but only for 165 yards passing and zero touchdowns. Stanford's defense was relentless in this game as they sacked SJSU's QB Kyle Reed nine times in this game.
Last week the Cardinal beat up on a poor Washington team. 35-28. The Cardinal pounded Washington for 466 yards and the 35 points. Once again Stanford's main weapon on offense was the run game, amassing 244 yards and two touchdowns. QB Tavita Pritchard had his best day of the year throwing for 222 yards and three touchdowns.
However, it was against Washington, a team allowing 507 yards on defense and almost 41 points per game.
Surprisingly, Washington was also able to move the ball on Stanford despite the loss of quarterback Jake Locker. The Huskies ran for 140 yards and did score 28 points on the day against a pretty good Stanford defense. The Cardinal had zero turnovers on the day, so it wasn't a situation where Stanford's mistakes were keeping Washington in the game.
After looking at Stanford I think a few things stand out to me. Stanford can run the ball fairly well. Gerhart is their best weapon, but Anthony Kimble proved last week he can handle the ball if Gerhart can't go. Stanford's QB play is average at this point, but the Irish have a habit of making any average QB look like Joe Montana for some reason. Still, this unit is ranked No. 105 in the country in total offense averaging 311 yards per game.
On defense, Stanford appears stout up front, allowing 128 yards per game, but they also haven't faced many good rushing teams other than TCU. However, their front four can get after the quarterback. Stanford is ranked No.13 in the country with 14 sacks in five games. Yes, nine came against San Jose State, but they do generate a lot of pressure up front. However, if they don't get to the quarterback, their secondary is suspect. They allow about 260 yards per game passing, and are ranked No. 88 in pass efficiency defense.
Stanford should play the Irish very tough on Saturday. I expect them fired up and ready to play from the first whistle. This is an improving team. However, if Notre Dame shows up to play as well, Stanford will have a tough time beating the Irish on Saturday…..if Notre Dame shows up to play.
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