Game Prediction

The Notre Dame/Stanford game has been a spirited contest of late. The Irish have won the last six games against Stanford, and the last six contests when these two teams have played on Notre Dame Stadium. The game took on a new twist with recent comments by Stanford offensive tackle Chris Marinelli. How much will Marinelli's comments affect the game?

Stanford offensive tackle Chris Marinelli brewed up some drama for Saturday's contest between the Irish and the Cardinal. His not-so-glowing review of the Irish, South Bend, and Notre Dame Stadium most likely sparked some emotions for Saturday's contest, and I, for one, can't wait to see how the Irish respond.

"We'll be ready, we've seen a lot of tape (on them) and it is a good challenge for us," Marinelli said. "But on the same token it's going to go bad for them at one point and we are going to gash the (expletive) out of them, I promise you that. So keep bringing it, keep bringing it. They have one sack all year on 200 blitzes."

"I hate it, playing up there," Marinelli said. "The field, excuse my language, the field sucks. The stadium sucks. I think the area sucks."

Them's fightin' words… will the Irish respond?

Notre Dame offense versus Stanford defense

The Irish had their best performance rushing the football last Saturday amassing 201 yards on the ground against an average Purdue defense. Stanford's run defense will likely be a little bit stingier in giving up yards on the ground. Teams have averaged 128 yards rushing against the Cardinal defense, but Stanford also hasn't played many good rushing teams at this point in their schedule. I expect the Irish to have some success running the football. If the Irish offensive line comes out with the same intensity as last week, I think they'll run the ball quite well.

Stanford's defense has been susceptible to the pass. The Cardinal do a good job of pressuring the quarterback with their front four, but if teams have time to throw they usually have success. Teams are completing 65 percent of their passes against Stanford's pass defense—that's a scary number for any defense. The Cardinal do have 14 sacks on the year, but nine came in one game. They have only three interceptions on the year as a defense.

The Irish receivers should give Stanford's secondary fits if the Irish choose to attack them this way. The key will be to protect quarterback Jimmy Clausen. If they can Clausen has shown he can be deadly accurate as a passer. I'd expect to see Notre Dame throw the ball often on Saturday.

Notre Dame defense versus Stanford offense

This will be the fun match up to watch on Saturday. Mr. Marinelli wasn't impressed with the Irish defense, and frankly, he's correct. Notre Dame has only one sack on the year. They had five sacks in this game last year in Palo Alto. How will the Irish respond?

It likely won't matter a great deal as I believe you'll see Stanford try to run the football on a suspect Irish run defense. Some teams have had success running the football on Notre Dame, and the Cardinal do average almost 170 yards rushing per game. Surprisingly, the Irish have been fairly solid against the run allowing 134 yards rushing a game. While it's not a great number, it's much better than the almost 200 yards rushing ND allowed last season. The Irish just need to contain the Stanford running game. If they limit the big plays, and they force Stanford to kick field goals, they should win this game.

Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard is a good, not great quarterback, but he does play with some attitude and shows good leadership on the field. If he makes some plays early, he could be a problem for the Irish as he's a fairly mobile guy who can make plays. He has thrown only four touchdowns on the year. Three came last week against Washington. He's completing 56 percent of his passes.

The Cardinal don't have anyone in their receiving corps to really fear, but they solid players who can still make plays. Again, the Irish just need to keep Stanford from making the big plays and they should win the game.

The "X" Factor

As it is every week with the Irish, intensity. Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh has the Cardinal playing with a lot of emotion and confidence. That makes Stanford a dangerous team. If the Irish stumble early, and Stanford has success early, this game will be a dogfight until the end, just like last year in Palo Alto. Stanford usually doesn't play well in Notre Dame Stadium, but that was before Harbaugh. I expect Stanford to play well on Saturday.

However, I still believe Notre Dame is the better team. If they don't turn the ball over a lot, and they limit Stanford to field goals, they should win the game on Saturday.

Mike Frank Prediction: I don't think intensity will be a problem for Notre Dame thanks to Mr. Marinelli. I expect the Irish to come out excited, emotional, and wanting to play a very physical game with Stanford. If they do that, the Irish should win by a comfortable margin.

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