The battle for the Legends Trophy will be underway this Saturday when the No. 17 Stanford Cardinal travel to South Bend to take on the hot, seventh-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
In a rivalry dominated by Notre Dame for most of the 2000s, former quarterback Andrew Luck—for whom the school's offensive coordinator is named—orchestrated three consecutive victories. While the No. 1 overall pick has moved on to the NFL, this Cardinal team is still formidable.
Starting senior quarterback Josh Nunes has filled Luck's big shoes as best as he can, and Stepfan Taylor has spearheaded a stellar Stanford ground attack. The Cardinal's physical style will be sternly tested by All-American linebacker Manti Te'o and a steely Irish defense, who are coming off yet another dominating performance in a 41-3 home victory over the Miami Hurricanes.
Here is the information you need to know ahead of this heated battle between two of the nation's fastest rising programs.
Where: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN
When: 3:30 p.m. ET. Saturday, October 13
Listen: Stanford: KNBR 1050 AM
Notre Dame: IMG Network; 93.1 The FAN
Live Stream: NBC Sports
Betting Odds (via Odds Shark): Notre Dame -7
Stanford Injury Report
Anthony Wilkerson (day-to-day)—The second-string running back suffered a knee injury in the victory over USC and has missed the past two weeks. He will continue to be evaluated as the week progresses, but should be ready to play this weekend.
Notre Dame Injury Report
Chase Hounshell (day-to-day)—The sophomore defensive end reserve has been dealing with a shoulder injury, and his status will be monitored leading up to Saturday's game.
Amir Carlisle (day-to-day)—The USC transfer has been dealing with a broken ankle. Notre Dame has plenty of viable running backs on the roster, though, with Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III.
Note: All injury information courtesy of USA TODAY
BCS/Top-25 Poll Implications
Between a loss to unranked Washington and squeaking out an overtime victory against lowly Arizona, the Cardinal have a lot to prove. In light of USC's recent struggles, their signature win of the season doesn't look as impressive.
At this point, the Irish have to be considered national title contenders, and are certainly vying for a BCS bowl. They are allowing just 7.8 points per game, and Everett Golson finally finished off a stellar outing last week against a decent opponent.
Snapping its three-game losing streak in this rivalry with a convincing win would likely vault Notre Dame up at least another spot or two in the rankings.
What They're Saying
The San Jose Mercury News ran a report by AP sportswriter Antonio Gonzalez, who notes how much of an enigma Josh Nunes is under center for Stanford. Referring to his roller coaster outings over the past three weeks, Gonzalez references the mettle Nunes showed in rallying the team to its victory over the Arizona Wildcats last week.
"It's not that we learned," Cardinal coach David Shaw said. "It's maybe that other people learned he's a tough kid. He bounces back, he doesn't listen to the noise. He's steady."
Chicago Tribune reporter Brian Hamilton writes that it's difficult to judge the offense's progress based on its dismantling of the Miami Hurricanes defense. Sophomore QB Everett Golson seemed extremely confident in the offense after the win, though.
"We showed a glimpse of what we could be. Just to think about it, to me, is kind of scary. We have all the physical tools. It's just a matter of putting it together," Golson said.
Stanford Player to Watch
Senior Stepfan Taylor is where the offense starts and ends. When he was held to 75 yards on 21 carries and a total of zero yards on four receptions, the Cardinal only put up 13 points in a loss to Washington. When the run is established, it opens the offense up for Josh Nunes.
To cap off another impressive performance against Arizona, Taylor took a handoff and scampered 22 yards for the deciding touchdown, his second of the day. Nunes may have ran for three shorter scores, but Stanford must rely on its running back to get it done in South Bend.
Notre Dame Player to Watch
Everett Golson has to be the man here. He had some strong words after the Miami victory, in which he contributed 51 rushing yards to the team's whopping total of 376 on the day.
Stanford's rush defense is a bit of a liability, which should open up big plays in the passing game on play action. It's up to the sophomore signal-caller to capitalize on the huge throwing lanes and one-on-one matchups to lead a balanced Notre Dame offense to victory.
Stanford's front seven matching up against the Notre Dame offensive line will be the battle to look for. The Cardinal have struggled to generate much pressure up front, and they can't be beaten at the point of attack if they want to stop the three-headed monster in the Irish backfield, not to mention the quick feet of Everett Golson.
Discipline on the zone read will be key, but Stanford must get the Irish offense off the field quickly to have any chance of pulling the upset on the road.
The Irish host the game, and are keying on revenge against their longtime rivals. Not having to negotiate Andrew Luck on defense will be a plus, but Notre Dame must keep playing a physical brand of football to get off to a fast start.
Both teams are ranked, but neither have faced terribly difficult competition based on where the Week 7 rankings stand as of now. Ultimately, Notre Dame will be too tough on defense at home, and the offense will build on its recent strong performance
Notre Dame 24, Stanford 10