Now that Notre Dame has made it out of the easier part of its schedule, we are going to see what the seventh-ranked Fighting Irish are all about this weekend when they host No. 17 Stanford.
One of the common criticisms the Fighting Irish have faced in their first four games of the season has been their offense. The defense is stout and gives them plenty of chances to put up a lot of points, but for one reason or another it just hasn't worked out for them yet.
All that changed in game No. 5 against Miami, as Notre Dame was able to put up 41 points, 587 total yards and 376 rushing yards. It was the second-best scoring output of the season for the Irish, but by far their most impressive and complete game.
What continues to be a surprise is the way Notre Dame handles the quarterback situation. Obviously, this week was a little different, as head coach Brian Kelly didn't start Everett Golson due to violation of a team rule, according to Alex Flanagan of NBC Sports.
Notre Dame qb Tommy Rees will start tonight against Miami. Everett Golson benched after a violation of team rules.— ND Sideline (@NDSideline) October 6, 2012
Golson didn't stay down long, as he came into the game in the first quarter and the rest is history. He gives the offense a dynamic it would not otherwise have with Tommy Rees, who is decent in the pocket but doesn't add much else.
The Irish will need all the firepower they can get, as Stanford is the best team on both sides of the ball they have played. Overall, the Cardinal's numbers don't look spectacular—just 62nd in passing, 75th in rushing, 49th in points scored, 42nd in points allowed—but this is an instance of the sum being greater than the parts.
Who will be the most important offensive player for Notre Dame on Saturday?
Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes has had ups and downs this season, but for the most part has only played one bad game, the loss against Washington. He needs to get more consistent with his accuracy, but overall he does a good job of keeping things moving forward.
Running back Stepfan Taylor has emerged as one of the more underrated runners in the country. He already has 555 yards and five touchdowns this season. He is a valuable asset in the passing game, at least when Stanford allows him to be.
The Cardinal have to establish the run early in this game. That is where teams have gotten in trouble against Notre Dame—they aren't able to get anything early, so they decide to air it out.
But we know this team can score points in a hurry. They put up 40 in the second half and overtime against Arizona this week. Granted, Arizona's defense isn't Notre Dame's, but it still takes a lot to put up that many points in a short amount of time.
The Irish can't be afraid to take chances down the field to keep the pressure on Stanford's defense. They were able to run the ball down Miami's throat. Perhaps they can take that approach against the Cardinal.
We won't know exactly what the Irish are capable of, but we do know that they need their most complete offensive performance of the season to come on Saturday afternoon in South Bend.