Notre Dame has been extremely impressive this season, but it will need its key players to step up this weekend in yet another difficult matchup against Stanford.
Five impressive victories have carried the Fighting Irish to the No. 7 rank in the AP Top 25 poll. The Cardinal, at 4-1, check in at No. 17.
Both teams possess tough defenses and this will not be a high-scoring affair.
Here are the players the Irish will be counting on to carry the team to 6-0.
Manti Te’o, Linebacker
Notre Dame’s success is owed entirely to its defense, and the unit will be more important than ever against Stanford.
Te’o has led this team by example with his stellar performances across all five games. His 48 total tackles and six passes defended are both team-highs, and he is also tied for the lead with three interceptions.
He is the quarterback of this defense, and his group must outperform the talented Cardinal defenders to earn a victory this week.
Te’o has been the Irish’s best player this season and his performance will have the largest impact on this game for the team.
George Atkinson III, Running Back
While the defenses will be the story in this game, it will not end 0-0. Somebody has to score, and for the Irish, Atkinson is the most likely player to do so.
Putting together a long, sustained drive will be extremely difficult for Notre Dame, and a big play would be a massive help in this game. Atkinson is averaging 9.3 yards on his 29 attempts and has excellent speed.
He is also the team’s kick returner, and special teams will be an area that could play a significant part in this contest as well.
Atkinson’s big-play ability will be the most dangerous weapon the Irish’s offense has to put points on the board against the Stanford defense.
Louis Nix III, Nose Tackle
This game will be won in the trenches, and that is exactly where Nix thrives.
The nose tackle is listed at 6’3” and 326 pounds, and his size and strength is a driving force behind the team’s success. He has 18 total tackles this season, and three tackles for a loss.
When he is controlling offensive lineman, Te’o and the linebackers have unabated paths to the opposing team’s ball-carriers.
If Nix is able to continue dominating at the point of attack, the Notre Dame defense has an excellent chance to be the better unit in the upcoming game against Stanford.