The Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-0) have exceeded most expectations so far this season, finding themselves ranked No. 7 in both the AP and Coaches Poll.
This week they will face their biggest challenge to date in the No. 17 Stanford Cardinal (4-1).
These teams have met every season since 1997, with Notre Dame posting a 9-6 record. These two teams have developed a fierce rivalry over the years, and you can often throw out their records when they meet.
The Legends Trophy is at stake again this season and the Cardinal would like to keep it for a fourth-consecutive season.
Last year, Andrew Luck torched the Irish for four touchdowns, en route to a 28-14 Stanford victory. This year, Luck is gone, but the Cardinal still have senior Stepfan Taylor, who scored the game-winning overtime touchdown against Arizona last week. He also rushed for 142 yards and a second touchdown in the win.
Taylor has rushed for over 100 yards in his last two games against the Irish.
Notre Dame's defense will have to respond to the challenge and shut down another great running game.
They held Michigan State's star running back Le'Veon Bell to 77 rushing yards in their third game and shut down Michigan's star quarterback Denard Robinson (his only game without a passing or rushing touchdown was against Notre Dame) the following week.
This Saturday will be another test to see if their defense is really as good as the 7.8 points per game they have given up so far this season.
Stanford also boasts a menacing defense (allowing more than 17 points just once this season) that is sure to give the Notre Dame offense trouble. Irish quarterback Everett Golson has only thrown three touchdowns this season and may need to get the air attack going if Stanford shuts down the running game.
Golson doesn't necessarily need to be the reason the Irish win the game, he will just need to not be the reason the Irish lose.
Five of the last eight meetings between these two teams have been decided by eight points or less.
This season, both teams are ranked and playing great football—a recipe for another nail biter. Stanford and Notre Dame have made a living off of their defenses this year, and you can expect them both to show up again this week. Whichever offense can find a chink in the armor of the opposing defense should prevail.
Notre Dame has been rolling through teams all season, but looking past the Cardinal could spell disaster for the Irish.
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