No Andrew Luck? No Brady Quinn? No problem. This year's matchup may be the most exciting one yet.
This weekend, the yearly rivalry between the Stanford Cardinals and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will take place down in South Bend.
The No. 17 Cardinals will look to keep the momentum of their offensive explosion into the No. 7 team in the nation with one of the best defenses in the country. Josh Nunes, quarterback of the the Cardinals, will have to put up his best Andrew Luck impression in a hostile environment to come out with a win. However, there are many challenges for a young Notre Dame team that is undefeated but very flawed.
Two players that will need to play even better than they already are:
The redshirt freshman has only played five games and has been relatively decent in not making costly errors and letting his defense put him in position to win. He looked very good last week, completing 17-of-22 passes and running for 51 yards. However, the Miami (FL) defense is not comparable to the stifling Cardinals one that shut down the vaunted Matt Barkley-led USC offense a couple weeks ago.
Notre Dame has a very good run game with George Atkinson III and Theo Riddick. The only issue is that Tyler Elfert being their only receiving threat, with no other true down-field threats to stretch the Stanford defense. They will look to pack eight or nine in the box and dare Golson to pass. It may come down to Golson in the fourth quarter making big plays in the pass game to get his team in position to win.
Stanford hung 48 points on a good Arizona team last week, but will come into South Bend against a defense that absolutely demoralized Michigan State and then came back a week later to shut down Denard Robinson's Michigan.
However, Stanford will bring in two tight ends that are absolute matchup nightmares: the 6'6" Zach Ertz and 6'8" Levine Toilolo. How the linebackers will match up will be key for the Stanford passing game. Manti Te'o, one of the top draft picks for next year, will have his hands full trying to stop the run and defending the two big tight ends.
Keep in mind that Stanford loves the run and Stefan Taylor has had success with his downhill, trucking ability.
There is much at stake for both teams, but a loss for the Irish would prove crushing for their BCS chances. They will need their quarterback and star linebacker to step up and get them there.