Notre Dame Football: Why Irish Season Hangs on Stanford Matchup

Hayden Deitrick@hdeitrickFeatured ColumnistOctober 8, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 06:  Manti Te'o #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish calls defensive signals against the Miami Hurricanes at Soldier Field on October 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Notre Dame defeated Miami 41-3.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Notre Dame versus Stanford has been a rivalry since 1988. 

This season, however, there is much more up for grabs than the elusive Legends Trophy. 

Notre Dame has started this season with an impressive, and in some ways, surprising record of 5-0.  They have great wins over then-10th-ranked Michigan State and 18th-ranked Michigan.  They also have wins over Navy, Purdue, and Miami. 

They won these games with fantastic defense. 

Notre Dame ranks second in the nation with an average of about eight points allowed each game.  They also cause about three turnovers every week, and, even more impressively, Notre Dame’s defense has not allowed a touchdown in three straight weeks.

Head coach Brian Kelly pointed out that this great defense came against a variety of different offensive schemes.

"Think of what Coach Diaco has had to defend in the five weeks," said Kelly. "Option offense, a run-first with the quarterback in Purdue. Michigan State, a grind-it-out, great running back. It's been an outstanding performance to date, and we've seen it all. Now we just need to build on it."

Notre Dame also boasts a thoroughly balanced offense. 

Sophomore quarterback Everett Golson has thrown for 827 yards and three touchdowns.  Notre Dame’s two running backs, George Atkinson III and Theo Riddick have combined for 532 rushing yards and six touchdowns. 

Notre Dame’s success this season, however, comes down to whether or not they can win in their upcoming bout with #17 Stanford.

A win against Stanford would catapult Notre Dame into talks for the BCS title game. 

Notre Dame already has two quality wins against Michigan and Michigan State, but defeating a Stanford team that took down powerhouse USC would surely move them into the Top Five in the rankings.

Furthermore, this upcoming game against Stanford is yet another chance for Notre Dame to prove that they are a real contender this season.  The Fighting Irish have, in a way, flown under the radar this season. 

They have surprised many this year and will look to build upon their early success by bolstering their resume with a win Saturday.

Notre Dame will only have two more games against ranked opponents—they will play Oklahoma and USC in the coming weeks.  This means that they will only have three more opportunities to defeat top-level teams that will earn them credit in the BCS.

A win against Stanford this Saturday will solidify their position as a top-five school, and it will also give confidence to a team that is about to have a tough stretch against two other top-talent teams.