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Stanford vs. Notre Dame: Why This Game Will Be Closer Than You Think

Ian BergCorrespondent IOctober 31, 2016

Stanford vs. Notre Dame: Why This Game Will Be Closer Than You Think

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    The No. 17 Stanford Cardinal travel to South Bend, Ind. to take on the No. 7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish this coming Saturday. Stanford will attempt to knock the Irish off the high they are riding after five straight victories.  Notre Dame may be the favorite, but this game will be closer than you think.

    The Irish have won five straight despite a quarterback rotation that relies on a “feel thing” according to what offensive coordinator Chuck Martin told the Chicago Sun-Times. The Irish have also relied on their rushing attack to win ballgames. That happens to be a Cardinal defensive strength. 

    With a lot riding on this game for Notre Dame, it would be easy to spot this as a letdown for the 2012 season.  Expect a battle from start to finish.

    Here are the reasons the Cardinal will challenge the Irish in South Bend this Saturday. 

Cardinal Stuffs the Run

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    Stanford has fielded a strong defense consistently over the past few seasons. That strong defensive play has continued this fall with Chase Thomas leading a very dangerous run-stuffing defense. 

    The Irish have relied on their rushing attack to provide offensive stability in 2012. Also, they have employed a two-man quarterback rotation, forcing the run to be the rhythm producer for the offense. 

    Notre Dame has three really good backs that carry the football, but they will face the No. 6 rushing defense in the country this Saturday. The Cardinal takes pride in stuffing the run. 

    George Atkinson III, Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick will all get carries, but they are going to have a tough time finding daylight against this defense. 

    With no consistent rushing attack, the Irish will struggle to find yards and points on offense. 

Stanford Will Play in the Irish Backfield

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    The Stanford defense has been dangerous this season. The Cardinal are ranked No. 4 in tackles for loss and No. 20 in sacks so far this year. They find ways to play in the backfield of opposing offenses. 

    Facing a quarterback rotation with no rhyme or reason and an offense that relies on rushing yards, TFLs and sacks will be stats to watch in this game. 

    If the Cardinal are able to battle the Irish offensive line and make plays behind the line of scrimmage, they could create enough 3rd-and-long scenarios to force Notre Dame into mistakes. 

    Golson has three touchdown passes on the season but also has three interceptions. Tommy Rees has no touchdowns and no interceptions but has been known to make errant throws under pressure. 

    This will be a key to watch in this game. 

Notre Dame Has a New Spotlight

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    Notre Dame is back in the national spotlight for all the right reasons. The Irish are talented and winning ballgames. 

    The defense has been one of the best in the country and the offense has been just good enough to keep the Irish undefeated. A young Everett Golson has been a pleasant surprise at quarterback and the trio of ball carriers, led by George Atkinson III, have pushed the Irish into the Top 10.

    One thing this team has yet to deal with is expectations. The Irish are now rising to the top of the college football discussion and are possible national title contenders. 

    It is difficult for a young team to shoot from Top 25 to Top 5 in just a few weeks. Brian Kelly has a lot of leadership in Manti Te’o and other upperclassmen, but each week the spotlight will grow and increase the difficulty of keeping level heads. 

    Can the Irish continue to ignore high expectations? It starts this Saturday against Stanford.

    Stand by for the answer.

Quarterback Rotation Will Haunt Irish

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    The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will face one of the best defenses on its schedule this season when Stanford comes to town on Saturday. The quarterback tandem has yet to spell disaster for the Irish, but that time could come this weekend.

    Notre Dame fans should be a bit concerned. Offensive coordinator Chuck Martin told the Chicago Sun-Times “I have no idea” when asked what the future holds for the quarterback race. He also went on to say the rotation is decided by his feelings, telling the Sun-Times it’s a “feel thing” when the switch is made. 

    That scenario has a lot of indecision and unconventional tactics built into it. Feelings can’t decide this quarterback platoon, and if they do, they may be wrong this weekend. 

    It may “feel” like Golson is struggling, but instead it will be the Cardinal defense neutralizing the Notre Dame offense as a whole. 

    This rotation needs to have a solid answer. Golson looks to be it, but the more the rotation is played, the bigger the chance a disaster has to unfold.

    It could come this Saturday. 

Stanford Has Faced a Tougher Road

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    Both the Cardinal and Irish have had hiccups through the first month of football. Stanford is the only one of the two that has a loss, but both teams have faced struggles. 

    The Irish have not faced the same level of struggle Stanford has. Stanford has played a 3-2 Washington team (that has faced a terror of a schedule), a previous No. 1 in USC and a 5-1 Duke squad. 

    Notre Dame has had games against Michigan, Michigan State and Miami (Fl.). Miami (Fl.) is sitting at 4-2 and may be the strongest of those three. 

    Notre Dame’s biggest struggle actually came against a 3-2 Purdue squad that loved to throw the football. 

    Both teams will enter this game prepared, but only one will have a win over a then-No.1 team and battled a similar opponent. Michigan State plays similar defense, but Stanford looks to be much better at this point in the season.

    Every season is an uphill climb—Stanford’s just looks a bit more difficult to date. 

Stepfan Taylor Has Notre Dame’s Number

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    Stepfan Taylor has been as good as advertised for Stanford this season. Taylor is a big part of the Cardinal success so far this season—he will be ready for this game and may be looking forward to it. 

    Taylor has faced Notre Dame in every season at Stanford, rushing for two consecutive 100-yard games against the Irish. As a sophomore he had 108, as a junior he had 118. 

    There is something to say for confidence and momentum. Taylor has both heading into this game. 

    This is a much-improved Notre Dame rushing defense but Taylor is an elite back that could spell disaster for the Irish. They have yet to face a backfield threat like Stanford’s featured back.

     

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