The Cardinal was able to survive last week against Arizona, scoring 54 points in the process after doing virtually nothing offensively against Washington the Thursday prior. But, even as good as Stanford's offense looked last weekend, Notre Dame's success is the bigger story heading into this matchup of "smaht" kids.
After weeks of offensive struggle, ND put 41 up on the board against Miami, giving the defense, which has carried the Irish to this point, a much needed respite.
1. Control Notre Dame NT Louis Nix in the middle.
2. In so doing, there must be a white shirt occupying MLB Manti Te'o as much as possible.
3. Attack the corners in the passing game and take some shots with WR Ty Montgomery deep.
4. On defense, win 1st down and put Notre Dame QB Everett Golson in 2nd and long often.
5. Vary up the RB Stepfan Taylor touches - runs/receptions, in traffic/out in space.
1. TE Levine Toilolo/Zach Ertz - Tough assignment for ND safeties and LB in the pass game.
2. C Sam Schwartzstein - Must control middle of the Notre Dame defense, in particular Nix.
3. LB Shayne Skov - May find himself "spying" on Golson.
1. Keep Te'o clean.
2. A lotta Motta - get ND S Zeke Motta involved in the run defense early and then he must win v. Stanford's talented TE on passing downs.
3. Control Stanford's edge players, especially Chase Thomas, from impacting the passing game.
4. Get ND TE Tyler Eifert involved throughout - whether at TE, H-Back or WR.
5. Load up the box and send the calvary when Stanford gets in 7/8 man offensive front.
1. RB/WR Theo Riddick - Speed on the perimeter could be issue for Stanford's defense.
2. OLB Prince Shembo - Has to create havoc off the edge.
3. S Matthias Farley - Replaced Jamoris Slaughter, must continue to keep everything in front.
Whether ND can be a true national championship contender or just a nice October story rests with QB Golson. He doesn't need to be Cam Newton, Tim Tebow or Robert Griffin III; he just needs to be the best Tony Rice he can be. Manage the game. Know when to take chances. Take care of the football. Throw to the open man. Simple, right? Tony Rice football.
Last week, Golson was 17 of 22 for 186 yards and 51 yards rushing with no turnovers, a solid start. Stanford's defense will provide a more stern test for the Irish signal caller, but if he continues to mature, he'll put a ton of pressure on that Stanford defense, like Arizona QB Matt Scott did last week…just in a different manner. Stanford's offensives strengths are completely negated by Notre Dame's defensive assets, so Stanford needs QB Josh Nunes to have another top notch performance. He'll play well, but not that well.
Notre Dame - 31 vs. Stanford - 27