Stanford vs. Notre Dame: Why Cardinal Will Cause Huge Upset Again

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Stanford vs. Notre Dame: Why Cardinal Will Cause Huge Upset Again
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Notre Dame is a great football team this season.

No, really.

It isn't hype. It isn't the simply the talk of "Domers." One of the most perennially overrated teams is showing that they can back up the big talk this season.

This weekend the Fighting Irish welcome the Stanford Cardinal to South Bend for a clash between Top-20 teams.

But quarterback Josh Nunes is no stranger to big games. He led the Cardinal to a win over then-second-ranked USC on September 15.

The favorite to go first overall in the NFL draft, Matt Barkley, was silenced by the Stanford defense, completing less than half of his pass attempts and throwing two interceptions.

Since then, however, Stanford has played two Pac-12 games in which the Cardinal lost 17-13 to the Washington Huskies and needed overtime to beat the Arizona Wildcats in a high-scoring affair last week.

Notre Dame comes into Saturday's game a clear favorite and coming off a dominating performance against the horrid defense of the Miami Hurricanes.

Everett Golson finally played an entire mistake-free game under center for the Irish.

After Tommy Rees was announced as the starting quarterback, he successfully went three-and-out on Notre Dame's first drive.

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A Miami player was pushed into the punter on 4th-and-6, resulting in a roughing the kicker penalty and new life for the Irish.

Immediately, Golson replaced Rees, and seven plays later Notre Dame led 7-0.

The Irish didn't look back and gained nearly 600 yards offensively en route to a 41-3 demolition of the Hurricanes.

But Stanford has what Miami doesn't, and that is a legitimate defense.

Though the Cardinal give up more points and yards than the Irish, they are just as disruptive. Both teams have tallied 16 sacks on the season.

Notre Dame ran left, right, up, down and all around the Hurricanes, but Stanford can plug holes and get into the backfield.

But Arizona scored 48 points last week against the Cardinal!

Correct, but the Wildcats also threw the ball nearly 70 times and Stanford had given up just 61 points in its first four games.

And let's face it, neither Golson nor Rees are going to throw the ball that much. They really don't have a need to do so, either.

 

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Notre Dame's talented backfield has combined to rush for 937 yards in 2012.

The Irish have three interchangeable running backs in Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III, along with Golson's ability to run.

Stanford's defense versus Notre Dame's offense will be a tight battle throughout the game, so a key difference will be the Cardinal offense versus Manti Te'o and the Irish defense.

Stats don't lie—the boys from South Bend have one of the best defenses in the country; perhaps the best. The Irish give up fewer than eight points and less than 284 yards per game.

Stanford does have one major advantage in this game: Notre Dame has not seen an offensive attack like Stanford brings yet this season.

Unlike Miami relying on the pass, Michigan hoping Denard Robinson's playmaking abilities would change the game and Michigan State trying, well, anything to beat the Irish, Stanford can run the ball straight up the middle with power as well as throw the ball downfield.

Senior running back Stepfan Taylor has amassed 555 yards and five touchdowns on the ground this season.

Nunes is coming off the best game of his college career, completing 62 percent of his passes for 340 yards and two touchdowns.

ESPN's Desmond Howard says that the offensive line can hold off the Irish front seven and allow Stanford's offense to go over the top as Miami's receivers successfully did early in the game.

If Nunes has time in the pocket, it could result in a lot of big plays that open up the power running game.

Stanford can power through Notre Dame's defense, but it will be no easy task.

Offense needs to be the catalyst for the Cardinal, and between Taylor and Nunes, Stanford could pull off the upset.

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