Notre Dame Football: Advantages Fighting Irish Must Utilize vs. Stanford

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IOctober 13, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 06: Theo Riddick #6 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is congratulated by teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Miami Hurricanes at Soldier Field on October 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

No. 7 Notre Dame will have plenty to take advantage of on Saturday when it hosts No. 17 Stanford in South Bend. 

From the raucous crowd cheering in support, to one of the nation's top defensive fronts, the Fighting Irish have little reason to come up short against their rival in 2012. Sure, the Cardinal have won three straight meetings between these two programs, but Andrew Luck and Jim Harbaugh aren't walking through Stanford's locker-room door.

Week 7's showdown will provide Brian Kelly's squad with the perfect opportunity to end a losing streak and prove just how legitimate it is heading into the second half of the season.

Let's highlight some of the key advantages Notre Dame must utilize vs. Stanford on Saturday afternoon.


Home-Field Energy

The most obvious advantage Notre Dame has on Saturday is the home-field advantage. The Irish must keep the crowd involved in the flow of the game from start to finish on Saturday afternoon in order to make life miserable for the Cardinal on offense. 

A strong start will have the Notre Dame faithful cheering for all four quarters and perhaps provide Brian Kelly's squad with the emotional boost it needs to finally avenge Stanford. 

There's only one Notre Dame Stadium, and the Cardinal will get to experience the noise and electricity it contains for the first time in two years on Saturday.


Three-Headed Rushing Monster

Notre Dame doesn't have one standout back like Stanford does in Stepfan Taylor, but instead boasts three talented running backs who complement each other. George Atkinson III, Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood compose the Irish's three-headed rushing monster.

Each back has rushed for more than 200 yards this season and has scored at least twice. Atkinson is averaging a ridiculous 9.3 yards per carry coming into Saturday's matchup with Stanford. Wood is second at 6.1 YPC and Riddick brings up the rear averaging a pedestrian 3.9 YPC. Together, though, Notre Dame's backs form one of college football's most unstoppable attacks, and it will certainly give the Cardinal defense fits all afternoon.

With three guys in the backfield to carry the load, fatigue is rarely if ever an issue, and first downs late in the game are easy to come by. 


Defense, Defense and More Defense

Defense is by far Notre Dame's biggest advantage in 2012. The Irish's front seven, anchored by senior linebacker Manti Te'o, is SEC caliber and has played with the effectiveness of a brick wall across the line of scrimmage. 

Teams are averaging less than eight points per game against Notre Dame this season, and averaging just 4.6 yards per play against the Irish's formidable defensive unit. The biggest key for Notre Dame in Week 7 is defense without question. It's why the Irish are 5-0 this season and why they have a tremendous shot to knock off Stanford for the first time since 2008.

Notre Dame hasn't given up a touchdown since Week 2 against Purdue (September 8), and it has allowed just three touchdowns all season long. That's pure defensive dominance, something Stanford will struggle to contend with on the road this weekend. 


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