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Onward to Stanford

Nov 27, 2009, 7:30 AM EDT

I’ve been as guilty as anyone these last two weeks looking past the actual football games to the juicy subplots that seem to have taken over the month of November. But today the Irish board a plane for Palo Alto where a Saturday night date with the Stanford Cardinal awaits. And if there was anything this team needed, it was an actual football game, somewhere to take the season’s frustrations out on an able opponent. 

Vegas has Stanford favored by ten points against Charlie Weis’ Irish squad, and that number is kind of mystifying, but signifies the dead in the water feeling many have for this football team. That point spread also has a lot to do with the respect the national media gives Jim Harbaugh and this Stanford team, who up until last week’s upset loss to Cal, looked to be the hottest team in the country.

What can we expect from the Cardinal? Well, we all know about Toby Gerhart. The bruising running back has catapulted his way into the Heisman Trophy conversation and is second in the country in rushing yards and leads the entire country in scoring (23 touchdowns, 2 two-point conversions). We’ve also seen redshirt freshman Andrew Luck blossom, playing efficient football and showing a dangerous mobility that will likely haunt the Irish defense. The Stanford Cardinal that throttled USC did so behind 325 rushing yards, 73 percent efficiency on third down, and absolutely stepping on the throats of the Trojans in the fourth quarter, running up 27 points on Pete Carroll’s squad in what was questionable, but definitely understandable, sportsmanship.

So how do we explain the four Stanford losses? The early season loss to a four-win Wake Forest, where Stanford blew a 17-3 halftime lead? Or Jacquizz Rodgers putting up 271 combo yards and scoring four touchdowns in a ten point Pac-10 track meet loss that looked much closer than it actually was? How about blowing a 28-13 lead and giving up 415 yards passing to Arizona quarterback Nick Foles while losing another high scoring affair 43-38 to the Wildcats? Then, after beating Oregon and USC, hemorrhaging  477 yards of offense to Cal, including 193 on the ground to backup tailback Shane Vereen, and losing the biggest game of the season 34-28.

Even amidst all the distractions, I’m not one to count the Irish out, and I’m certainly not one to think that the Irish should be ten point underdogs, especially since they’ve played every game this season to within a touchdown. The biggest reason I think the Irish will compete is the Stanford defense. It’s mediocre.

Deep in the lower tier of total defense rankings is Stanford, notching in a slot below the disappointing Irish defense at 81st. Even worse, they’re ranked 97th against the pass, giving up a woeful 244 yards per game. Even more surprising is their inability to force turnovers. Even including turnover heavy games against USC (four) and Washington (three), Stanford has only forced 14 turnovers, good for 101st in the nation. Even more horrific is the Cardinal red zone defense, which should be a suitable tonic for Notre Dame’s own deficiencies inside the twenty. Stanford ranks 115th in red zone defense, allowing their opponent to score 89 percent of the time, with a touchdown registering at 62 percent. If you’re looking for a reason why Stanford isn’t an elite football team, it’s because the defense has been letting them down. (Sound familiar?)

Most have the Irish dead and buried, but I’m optimistic that we’ll see a care-free Irish team looking to make a statement against a team that’s probably getting far more respect than they deserve. While Gerhart has been getting it done on the ground, his 1568 rushing and receiving yards are only 102 yards better than Golden Tate’s 1466 combination yards, and that doesn’t take special teams yardage, or the fact that Golden is doing it on a fraction of the touches.

Whatever the outcome, it’ll be good to get back to talking about football, instead of all the action that’s taking place far from the sidelines.   

  1. mrrandolph - Nov 27, 2009 at 8:23 AM

    Well said…Now you got me thinking if the Irish win they should win and it is not an upset. But, if they don’t they have lost to another mediocre team. I am pulling for Nevada also, that way CW has his signature win by finally beating a team that finished the season with no more than 4 losses.
    If the Irish get clobbered CW should resign and be honorable. If the Irish win, leave the decision with Swarbrick. And, please after CW whether it is this year, next year, or in 10 years…no more interns…Faust b4 ND high school coach, Davie b4 ND Defensive Coordinator, CW b4 ND OC with NE. Get someone with a record of leading programs and young men.

  2. NDFAN401 - Nov 27, 2009 at 2:20 PM

    Well Keith, this does sound like two teams that mirror each other and the shortcomings mirror each other also. Stanfords’ defense has faltered about the same as ours has this season. I think one of the biggest elements of this game is going to be the Notre Dame players ability to close out all the negativity of the past week and just play sound football. If they are able to do that for sixty minutes I believe that we have a good chance. However we need sixty good minutes from everyone the offense, the defense, and the special teams, absolutely everyone must play their best game.
    In a perfect world Toby Gerhart probably should be the Heisman winner he is playing great, dealing with higher profile guys like Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy however might be too much to overcome.
    Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate have an opportunity here to really show huge amounts of maturity by getting the team focused. This is the type of “lame duck” scenario that the players have to take over and make their own. It is for sure that there are going to be wholesale changes made when the season ends and Jimmy Clausen, Golden Tate and all of the seniors can launch those changes and a new era in Notre Dame football by playing the game of their lives.
    I have been deeply saddened this past week by all of the negativity surrounding the football program and the university, it would be nice to end the week with a win. A freind on mine was telling me the other day that he is amazed by all of the people that talk poorly about Notre Dame and the way the media this week has taken it upon themselves to personally destroy Charlie Weis. I told him that I agreed, and sometimes with all the negative press that we receive I feel as though we should have won at least the last five national championships. But even though it has been a tough season and a tough year and is most likely going to be a rough offseason I just hope and pray that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

  3. StephenOfTroy - Nov 27, 2009 at 3:46 PM

    I wouldn’t pay any mind to the point spread; after all, USC was a ten-point favorite to beat the Cardinal, and look at how THAT turned out… :)
    Mr. Arnold, what precisely did you find “understandable” about Harbaugh’s sportsmanship? I don’t have a problem with the 4th quarter TD’s. My concern is with the decision to go for a 2-point-conversion after one of the scores. His team was already in complete control of the game, and that decision was atrocious as far as I’m concerned.
    When USC is playing a team that cannot stop it, you’ll see Pete Carroll go to only two zone running plays, over and over. The games against Washington State are a prime example. Last year he did that for the entire second half. I don’t expect other teams to do what Pete Carroll does. But going for 2 was bush league, and a prime example of bad sportsmanship. Not “questionable” sportsmanship.
    ND might be looking at the Stanford game as their de facto bowl game. I think Stanford’s defense is better than they get credit for, and when you consider the ball-control offense Stanford runs, their defense gets plenty of rest. I expect the game to come down to two things. 1 – Can ND get Stanford off the field on 3rd down, and 2 – Can the Irish score TD’s instead of field goals. I think Stanford will play very well. I genuinely hope the Irish do too. I’d like to see them end their regular season on a high note.

  4. Lindsey Diehr - Nov 27, 2009 at 4:22 PM

    I hope that Jimmy Clausen doesn’t go to the Redskins cause it’s no just one person that sucks on that team. It’s not like he can fix then hopefully he will stay at least one more year or not even think of going to the Redskins?

  5. joe from Dublin - Nov 28, 2009 at 2:32 PM

    There has been so much negative talk this year about ND that is not deserved. This team has been fun to watch this year. They were in every game. The only two blowouts were games where they were the ones blowing people out. They could be undefeated as easily as they could be a 2 win team. I think all the negativity comes from the previous two seasons which is why I never understood why ND brought Weis back in the first place. It is a recipe for disaster. When ND put those expectations in place, they really should have let Charlie go. Whatever your feelings are about Charlie, I think we should give the team some praise for providing us with some fantastic games. The two previous seasons were borderline unwatchable with all the youth in the lineup. This year’s team may end up at 6-6 but you can not say they were unwatchable. Watching Tate, Floyd, Teo, Clausen, and McCarthy has been a real treat and we owe them a debt of gratitude as none of them gave anything less that 110% and gave us some exciting football to watch again. As a life long fan of ND, it was repulsive that some idiot fan punched Jimmy last week. thankfully that fan is the exception not the rule.

  6. robertg - Nov 28, 2009 at 3:01 PM

    1. on thurday, our experts broke down ther game films of a dishonest big 12 conference officiating crew assisting a texas team in stealing a win from texas a&m, rather than lose all of those huge bonuses that come with getting texas into the bcs national championship game.
    2. on friday, our experts broke down the game films of still another dishonest sec conference officiating crew step up to save alabama from a 3rd loss t his season-this time to auburn- rather than see those big sec conference bowl bonuses get slashed.
    3. on friday, our experts broke down the game films of another dishonest officiating crew( dishonest football officiating is nationwide courtesy of ncaa level college football officiating llc(jointly owned and operated by the ncaa and the power conferences, check out the website online) and chaired by dave parry, who previously ran the dishonest college football officiating operation at the big 10 conference with his good buddy, jim delany, big 10 conference commissioner assisting cincinnati to remain “undefeated” against ilinois.
    4. why did the dishonest big east officials not intervene to assist pitt to steal a win from west virginia on friday?
    5. the answer is simple. just look at the big east conference bowl revenues. the winner of the cincinnati/pitt game next week gets and automatic bcs bowl bid and letting west virgina beat pitt qualifies another big east conference team for another big revenue producing bowl game and all bowl revenues flow through the conferences before they reach the school conference members.
    6.did the wac officials interfere to give boise state a big win over nevada in order to guarantee those big bcs revenues for the wac conference? no, they did not. the wac conference officials are, for the most part, quite honest.
    7. in 2007( game film and audio still available at under football and 2009 archives and under great plays of the charlie weis era) and 2008( tv feed still available right here at notre dame central, but none of the private conference that stanford coach jim harbaugh had with the dishonest pac 10 game officials at halftime(we have vidoe and audio of that illegal conference)) charlie and his staff and notre dame’s fine student athletes who also play football defeated both stanford and and dishonest officiating crews.
    8. despite being left hanging out in the wind to be tortured and vilified in the media by notre dame’s ad jack swarbrick and by certain elements in the notre dame administration, do we have any doubt that charlie and his staff and notyre dame’s fine student athletes who also play football will be playing to defeat stanford and the dishonest big east game officials today? ABSOLTELY NOT.
    GO IRISH!!!

  7. robertg - Nov 28, 2009 at 4:20 PM

    1. some excellent news already today from the dishonest officiating fronts.
    2.the game and tech review officials allowed unranked nc state to beat former#23 north carolina, unranked south carolina to beat former #15 clemson, and unranked mississippi state to beat former no.20 mississippi while unranked oklahoma is leading no. 11 oklahoma state by 20.
    3. would these events have been permitted to happen if we had not hit enough confernce officials and their superiors with our civil rico lawsuits? not in a million years.
    4. are these events good news for charlie and his staff and for notre dame’s fine student athletes who also play football? they most certainly are.
    5. if notre dame does beat stanford today, do we already know the responses from the media shills who run cover for crooked college sports enterprises?
    6. of course we what, stanford is not really a good team anyway.
    7. as announced at the beginning of this season by long term media shill con artist tom dienard( currently, but not for much longer, employed by yahoo sports( yahoo itself is a victim, not a participant, in these con operations)), notre dame has such a cupcake schedule that notre dame is not going to be allowed to go to a bcs bowl no matter how many games notre dame wins in 2009.
    8. of course, neither dienhard nor any other person or entity involved with crooked college sports enterprises will have any material assets next season no matter what happens at notre dame.
    GO IRISH!!!

  8. Len - Nov 28, 2009 at 4:43 PM

    Jimmy Clausen is not ready for the NFL.He should use another year to pad his stats.It is possible with a new coach ND could have a better year in 2010.If he wants I believe Golden Tate is ready for the NFL.He would be a great addition to a team whom uses the wildcat.So far the only team I know is Miami.

  9. joe from Dublin - Nov 28, 2009 at 7:19 PM

    Most teams have some kind of a wildcat in their playbook so Tate would fit with a lot of teams. The assessment Charlie made on him is that he is in the mold of Steve Smith with Carolina. Weis is also quoted as saying that Tate could benefit from another year. Tate agreed that he had some things to work on but did not say he was staying definitely. As for Clausen, the fact that his parents put their house up for sale sounds as if it is a done deal that he is going pro. I think both should stay but I think it ends up being Clausen to the NFL and Tate for another year. It is scary to think what both these guys could do if Brian Kelly is the coach next year. The good news on both of these guys is that there is talent behind them waiting to play. You never replace a Tate or Clausen completely but Crist and the wealth of WR’s behind Tate can soften the blow. All indications are that Swarbrick is going to wrap the coach situation up quickly unlike the last few debacles that dragged this out to Jan. If he does it quick, the new coach assuming it is a big name guy would have time to get them comfortable with playing next year and would keep our commitments.

  10. tj - Nov 29, 2009 at 12:01 AM

    I want Tommy Tuberville, the former coach at Auburn before he was railroaded out of town. He’s a defensive minded coach with a track history of building SUPREME defenses with adequate to very good offenses. Has a history of recruiting outstanding athletes, as well as outstanding people/students.

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