Stanford vs. Notre Dame: Fighting Irish Will Shut Down Cardinal Offense
Last week, Josh Nunes did his best Andrew Luck impression. The sophomore QB led the Cardinal to a 54-48 overtime victory against Arizona by scoring five TDs and throwing for 360 yards.
Overall, the Cardinal offense looked efficient and high-powered.
However, don't expect another brilliant offensive performance against Notre Dame's bruising defense.
Expect a good old-fashioned SEC-like defensive showdown, as the Cardinal offense will be non-existent against Manti Te'o and the Fighting Irish monster defense. Here's why.
TE vs. LB Matchups
If you haven't heard of Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo yet, take notes.
Ertz is a 6'6", 250-pound TE with elusiveness, tackle-breaking ability and great hands. Simply put, he's huge and almost uncoverable (just look at the picture).
Levine Toilolo, meanwhile, is even more gigantic. At 6'8" and 265 pounds, Toilolo makes smaller cornerbacks and covering linebackers look like schoolchildren.
While the two TEs are both vital in the Cardinal passing offense, the Fighting Irish are actually prepared to defend them better than anyone this season.
Notre Dame's linebackers are taller and quicker than anyone Stanford has faced this year. They tackle well in the open field, can run sideline to sideline and have outstanding coverage skills.
These attributes have created the nation's second best defense in points allowed this year and will also make sure Ertz and Toilolo are close to ineffective.
This takes a huge component of the Cardinal passing offense out of the game, making it difficult for Josh Nunes to put points on the board.
Stanford's Lack of Receivers
While the Cardinal boast the nation's best TEs, they are horrendously weak at WR. This puts the Irish in a great position to shut down almost the entire passing offense.
Ty Montgomery, Stanford's leading wideout, only has 18 catches through five games. Next are Drew Terrell with 10 and Jamal-Rashad Patterson with four.
This means that the Fighting Irish can defend Stanford's wideouts one on one (yes, the corners are more than good enough), allowing the safeties to help with TE coverage and defend the run.
Notre Dame will shorten the field through this strategy, taking away Stanford's best offensive strengths—the TEs and the run game.
Stepfan Taylor is a good old-fashioned, powerful bruiser of a running back, which actually bodes extremely well for Notre Dame's run defense.
The Fighting Irish are only surrendering 3.5 yards per carry and boast the nation's second overall defense in points allowed.
With a good defensive line and arguably the nation's best linebackers, Taylor will have less open field and smaller holes to work with than he's seen all year.
Even after Nunes' 360-yard performance against Arizona, there's no question that Stanford's offense is run-first.
Against the Notre Dame defense, however, the Cardinal will quickly realize that running it up the gut like they normally do will lead to three-and-outs, not first downs.
A team's MVP rarely plays on the defensive side of the ball. LB Manti Te'o, however, is one of the nation's few exceptions.
Te'o does it all. He rushes the passer, can cover TEs, makes great open-field tackles and is the team's unquestioned on-and-off-the-field leader.
With all this ability, Te'o will be the man to watch on Saturday. He'll make tackles when Nunes scrambles out of the pocket, cover Ertz and Toilolo when needed and stop Taylor from breaking into the secondary.
Although Te'o is only one man, he's going to be a huge factor in all facets of Notre Dame's defense. The Cardinal will have to worry about him every play.