Last week, we gave an early preview of Stanford’s September showdown against USC, against whom the Cardinal are 4-1 since 2006. Another key 2012 matchup for Stanford will be at Notre Dame.
The Cardinal have won the last three meetings over the Irish and visit South Bend on October 13.
Stanford’s three victories during the Andrew Luck era were by a combined score of 110-66. The Irish
have had no answer for the Cardinal’s power running attack, which piled up 673 rushing yards in the three wins. Luck added four passing TDs in the 2011 game.
Will 2012 make it four in a row?
Both teams lost offensive superstars to the NFL—Luck, Fleener, DeCastro and Martin from Stanford, and Michael Floyd from Notre Dame.
Both teams are unsettled at QB. Stanford’s new starter may emerge from among Brett Nottingham, Josh Nunes and others during training camp. The Irish have Tommy Rees returning, but he lacked
consistency in 2011 and will be challenged for the starting QB position.
Both teams will also be unveiling new secondaries, with at least three new starting DBs in each unit. Neither pass defense was scintillating in 2011, as the Cardinal surrendered over 253 passing yards per game and 18 TDs in the pass-happy Pac-12, and the Irish allowed over 205 yards per game and 23 TDs.
Taylor has rushed for 270 yards in the three wins over Notre Dame, and that includes his cameo appearance in the 2009 game better known as the Toby Gerhart Show.
The Cardinal also have a pair of towering TEs in Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo and a swift WR in Ty Montgomery who is poised for a breakout sophomore season. Montgomery hauled in six receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinal's 28-14 win over ND last November.
Notre Dame also returns talent in the backfield and on the OL, and has a star TE of its own in Tyler Eifert.
The Stanford defensive line and LB corps could be among the nation’s best, with dynamic playmakers led by Chase Thomas, Trent Murphy and Ben Gardner, who combined for 19.5 sacks in 2011.
Finally, don’t forget Stanford's second team All-Pac 12 PK Jordan Williamson. Now fully recovered from his 2011 injury that contributed to his Fiesta Bowl struggles, Williamson should be nails in 2012.
Still, South Bend has not been terribly kind to the Cardinal over the years. The 2010 win, where FB/LB Owen Marecic famously scored touchdowns on offense and defense, was Stanford’s first in Notre Dame stadium since 1992.
The 2012 Cardinal should be able to ride the power running game and the punishing front seven on defense for its first back-to-back wins in South Bend in over 20 years.
More to come on this matchup later this summer.