Notre Dame Football: If Stanford Embarrasses the Irish, Who Gets the Blame?

Dan VastaSenior Writer IIINovember 20, 2011

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 22:  Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish leaves the field after a loss to the University of Southern California Trojans at Notre Dame Stadium on October 22, 2011 in South Bend, Indiana. USC defeated Notre Dame 31-17.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Irish escaped with a nail-biting 16-14 victory over Boston College. However, it did not go smoothly, as they lost their touchdown vulture in Jonas Gray.

Gray ran it 11 times for 61 yards and a touchdown but suffered a season-ending injury (torn ACL). Gray had 12 touchdowns, and the loss is brutal since he was the starting running back over Cierre Wood.

However, they were both used a ton and they were both expected to break the 1,000-yard mark and 24 TDs, which would have been the first pair of running backs to do so since 2004.

Now they need to prepare for a great opponent in the Stanford Cardinal. It will be Andew Luck's final home game as a player and, of course, it is not like Stanford has nothing to play for.

A BCS bowl is on the line for Luck, and one would assume he is not going to let it slip from his grasp with first-year head coach David Shaw.

However, what on Earth is going to happen to Notre Dame in this game? If they get blown out, will they blame each other or the coaching staff?

Every time out they lose it seems as if it is no big deal when in reality it is just that. Plus, Brian Kelly has not been a man that the team has been in love with this season.

Kelly has been blowing up at a few of his players for either dumb penalties or turnovers in the red zone, but usually players can bounce back and use that as motivation.

Not for this team. Some players do not react well when getting thrown into the doghouse or under the fire with pressure, and clearly this Notre Dame team is filled with sensitive people. 

Playing for one of the most prestigious programs in the history of college football is a big deal, but this team is still searching for that game where they just let everything hang loose and enjoy their time. 

Notre Dame (8-3) can still get a decent bowl game, such as the Champs Sports Bowl, but is that really good enough in year two under Kelly?

Usually you see a ton of improvement from the first to second year and the third can often be magical. But how many times have we heard optimistic things about this football team only to have those expectations be thrown out the door?

This team had BCS written all over them from the preseason, with a schedule that only featured a a few teams who could even match them in terms of talent.

Kelly clearly takes a ton of the blame for this decent season thus far, but what is going to happen next?

If they do get blown out by Stanford, I can guarantee you South Bend will not be fine and dandy heading into their bowl game. Plus, when teams lose critical games like this, we often see them drop the ball big time in their bowl game.

People argued about starting Dayne Crist in favor of Tommy Rees, and then the immediate change certainly raised some eyebrows. Clearly, it looked like the right move in retrospect, but that had not solved some of the issues that this team still has.

A nationally televised game against one of the top three Heisman vote-getters will be a chance to shut all of the naysayers up by showing the world this team is back to national relevancy.

They are ranked in the Top 25 in all of the polls, and they best play their "A" game to avoid the thought of an off-season filled with hatred and uncertainty about the direction of this program in the near future.