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Pregame Twelve Pack: Stanford edition

Sep 24, 2010, 12:55 PM EDT

Week four of the Pregame Twelve Pack. Twelve fun facts, tidbits, leftovers and miscellaneous musings as we head into the Purdue game.

1. Kelly and the Irish are going dark.

You can’t blame me as I’m never at practice, but somebody broke the practice policy for reporting, and as a result media will no longer be allowed inside LaBar Practice complex for the remainder of the season.

The entire system of what was reportable and what wasn’t was kind of vague to begin with, but beat-writers and media members won’t have access to Wednesday practices for the rest of the season. This ban is likely to stop reporting on things like injuries, which as Jim Harbaugh has proven this week, is something some team’s like to play close to the vest.

2. Is Stanford a Rose Bowl contender or paper lion?

We’ll most likely find out in the next three-game stretch, but the $64,000 question really seems to be, how legit is Stanford? While the early returns are certainly promising on the new 3-4 defense, I’m not sold on this group after three games against Sacramento State, UCLA and Wake Forest. From listening to Brian Kelly yesterday, you can tell that he and the staff aren’t quite sure of what to expect either.

“To be honest with you, it’s hard to evaluate them,” Kelly said. “Sacramento State,
the game was out of hand. It as 17-0 early. Got to 28-0 against UCLA. I
can tell you it’s a whole different scheme from last year. They’ve
employed a 3-4 defense and a lot of man to man coverage. They matched up
really well against an offense like Wake Forest, because they could put
nine, 10 guys on the line of scrimmage. They overwhelmed Sac State, and
quite frankly, UCLA, I don’t know what they were doing offensively.
They visited Nevada and put in the pistol offense and I don’t know what
was going on there.

“This will be totally different than what they have
seen, relative to our offense. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a different kind of scheme
for us. It’s going to be a great challenge on both ends.”

3. Looking for a scouting report on Chris Owusu? Try calling Jimmy Clausen.

Owusu will likely be at full-strength this weekend after being held our of the first two games of the season. His two two touchdowns against Wake Forest last week are a reminder that the preseason All-American is one of Stanford’s most explosive athletes. While Notre Dame has seen plenty of tape on Owusu, one person they could call is his high school quarterback, some kid named Jimmy Clausen, who connected for nine touchdowns and 750 yards during Jimmy’s senior season.

If Owusu runs wild against Notre Dame, they’ll only have themselves to blame. The Irish were one of his favorite schools during recruiting, but never came to the table with a scholarship offer.

4. There will be some familiar faces wearing Stanford uniforms this Saturday.

There will be some memories revived for a few Cardinal players, with former Irish football players Konrad Reuland and Nate Whitaker returning to South Bend after transferring from Notre Dame.

Reuland was a highly-touted recruit for Charlie Weis but never found his groove on the Irish roster, transferring out early in the 2007. He’s a big-bodied tight end that’ll be part of the depth chart for the Cardinal.

Whitaker was a walk-on kicker for the Irish, eventually becoming a kick-off specialist in 2007 before transferring to Stanford. He converted over 72-percent of his field goal attempts and was named honorable mention All-Pac-10 last season. Talking about his decision to transfer, Whitaker feels like he didn’t get a fair shake with the Irish.

“To be honest, I have tried to stay away from this but I don’t feel like I got a completely fair chance because of the fact that I was a walk-on,” Whitaker told the South Bend Tribune. “But other people have different opinions on that factor, and it’s up for discussion. But personally I don’t think that I had the fair chance that I deserved.”

Whitaker has certainly proved his worth, coming through with a great season as Stanford’s primary kicker, doing it under the same special teams coach he had at Notre Dame.

5. It’s not just players returning to South Bend…

The Stanford coaching staff also is ripe with connections to Notre Dame, with former special teams coordinator Brian Polian now holding the same position under Jim Harbaugh and defensive line coach Randy Hart back on the West Coast after spending the 2009 season at Notre Dame with Charlie Weis.

Polian spent five years at Notre Dame, recruiting the West Coast for the Irish, making him a pretty logical fit for Harbaugh.

6. How good is Andrew Luck? Well, Mel Kiper thinks he’s pretty good.

ESPN’s NFL Draft guru has just moved Luck to the top of his 2011 Big Board, his projections on the best player available in next year’s draft. Kiper has this to say about the Stanford quarterback: “Great arm, NFL smarts, solid footwork. Prototypical size and intangibles. Checks down with a veteran’s savvy.”

Luck still has another year of eligibility, but if he continues to play great football, it looks like Harbaugh will be replacing the best quarterback he’s coached.

7. Harbaugh playing coy with injury to one of his top receivers.

While Brian Kelly has shown in his first three weeks that he’s pretty candid about injuries, Jim Harbaugh has taken a page out of Bill Belichick’s book when dealing with injuries, specifically one to veteran wide receiver Ryan Whalen, who dislocated an elbow and his highly doubtful to play on Saturday.

When asked at his press conference if Whalen was going to play, Harbaugh went stealth.

“As soon as I tell you, you’re going to tell Notre Dame,” Harbaugh said. “I’d want to know about the status of every player on their team, what percent they are, how many plays they are going to play. That’s valuable information.”

Whalen was wearing a shoulder sling at practice this week, giving reporters an ability to read between the lines.

8. The Tunnel Workers’ Union is a blue-collar bunch.

As Stanford Daily sports editor Kabir Sawhney mentioned, the Stanford offensive line has established quite a reputation. Dubbed “the tunnel workers’ union,” by Stanford fans, Jonathan Martin, Andrew Phillips, Chase Beeler, David DeCastro, and Derek Hall combine to create a formidable running game.

Let’s take a quick look back at their recruiting pedigree — often times a hard evaluation when dealing with linemen.

Jonathan Martin — Three Stars. UCLA and Utah Offers. California native.
Andrew Phillips — Three Stars. Northwestern and North Carolina offers. Maryland native.
Chase Beeler — Three Stars. Oklahoma transfer. Oklahoma native.
David DeCastro — Three Stars. Oregon State and Washington offers. Washington native.
Derek Hall — Three Stars. BC and Michigan State offers. Defense end recruit.

While the group may not wow you with their star-power, it’s another good example that you find great football players in all shapes and sizes.

9. The Irish need to play some solid red zone defense.

That’s because Stanford looks like a juggernaut in the scoring zone, going 19-for-19 thus far on the season, with a staggering 16 touchdowns. What makes a team like Stanford so dangerous close to the goal line is a solid running game and a mobile quarterback that is also accurate, two traits that make Andrew Luck very valuable. For the Irish to win this football game, they’ll need to punch in their own opportunities, as well as hold the Cardinal to field goals instead of touchdowns.

10. Look for the Irish to make a big play on special teams.

Last week’s fake field goal is a gigantic stain on a special teams group that prides itself in being one of the best in the country. Kelly and special teams coordinator Mike Elston have put the troops on notice that things better turn around quickly.

“We’ve taken our lumps on some effort things, more so than we have
schematically. Obviously one of things I mentioned earlier in the week,
I didn’t like the effort of some of the veteran players on special
teams,” Kelly said. “This has been more of a, look, this is your last shot or you’re
not going to go to BC. I’m not putting you on the bus —
if you’re the third string whatever position and you’re not giving us
great effort on special teams, then I’m just going to leave you home.
This has been more challenging our players to play at a higher level.”

11. The defensive line will be front and center on Saturday.

It’ll be mass-on-mass up front, with the winning line likely dictating the game. Defensive linemen Ethan Johnson, Ian Williams, and Kapron Lewis-Moore know they’re up for a challenge. When asked how Stanford compared against the Irish’s two previous opponents, Lewis-Moore saw some subtle differences.

“I feel like Stanford is a mix of Michigan State and Michigan, the way
the offensive line plays,” Lewis-Moore said. “The offensive line, they’re moving in space.
Michigan State is coming straight at you.
Stanford, they can do a combination of the both. They’re fast, quick,
have good pad level. They’re going to try to knock us off the ball. I
think it’s going to be a great challenge for us.”

The front-three will need to stay on their feet, and take advantage of their opportunities to make big plays in the backfield.

12. Irish need to break a very ugly streak this Saturday.

Talk about a trend that needs to be reversed: The Irish have lost 10-straight games against top-20 opponents. Four of those games have come inside Notre Dame Stadium.

This is the highest-ranking the Cardinal have ever had when they played Notre Dame, and the Irish are a 4.5 point underdog according to Las Vegas, a number that might not make sense for people that look at the Irish record and Stanford’s three-game start. The good news for Irish fans? Brian Kelly is 8-2 against ranked opponents, so it looks like something has to give.


  1. brendan_g - Sep 24, 2010 at 4:05 PM

    if harbaugh weren’t coaching the opponent this week i think i might like the guy. he coaches the game like he has a chip on his shoulder. let’s hope rich rod has some success this year so harbaugh doesn’t go back to his alma mater.

  2. Irish Fan - Sep 24, 2010 at 5:09 PM

    Another Saturday = Another Loss for Irish.
    Stanford will beat us decisively.
    Our defense sucks, and our offense is slightly better than average.
    Our ineptitude is a fitting punishment for the Church turning a blind eye to all of the sexual abuse of children occurring right under its nose.
    Fire Kelly now.

  3. Art Vandelay - Sep 24, 2010 at 5:39 PM

    I don’t care if we are a 4.5 point dog in this one. This is Stanford and we have to beat them in our house. Harbaugh will taste defeat this weekend.

  4. Art Vandelay - Sep 24, 2010 at 5:44 PM

    @Irish Fan…..
    I’m sure that the victims of sexual abuse by predatory priests would agree with you that ND’s ineptitude is a “fitting punishment”. Seriously, what does one thing have to do with the other and why should ND be punished at all? None of the abuse is alleged to have occurred there to my knowledge. Let’s keep that BS off the football blog page, what do ya think?

  5. Chucket - Sep 24, 2010 at 6:29 PM

    @ Irish Fan:
    losing football games has NOTHING to do with God. “Gods who punish” are images from ancient minds and cultures. We now know that God does not institute punishment. Personal responsibility is the working reality here…NOT a “punishing god”.
    Evidence actually works nicely in our instance. Stanford will probably win this game. But we don’t know what Notre Dame has in store, and that’s why they play the game. GO IRISH, shellack Stanford!

  6. sweetpete - Sep 24, 2010 at 7:02 PM

    Thanks art for that reply towards irishfan. that has to be the most idiotic thing i have ever heard. SERIOUSLY!!! EVER!!! Can we get somebody, anybody that has some type of skill and speed returning punts and kick-offs please. is Wood hurt cause all of a sudden he looks like a deer caught in headlights. Disappointing to say the least after the Purdue game. I want this team to suck it up and run the ball when called on!!! Still don’t see o-line making holes for the backs on 3rd and 2. Need some enthusiasm, not seeing it, make a good play and nobody patten fellas on the helmet or sideline getting into it. seems to be the same Charlie stuff going on. 5 d players tackling our backs and no lineman coming over and not punishing the defenders for piling on. Is Notre Dame tough or lazy? Team looks decent at times just missing toughness as we have for a long time.

  7. AC - Sep 24, 2010 at 7:06 PM

    Keith Arnold, I’m sick of these underhanded insults to Stanford University: Luck will be leaving for the NFL, Harbaugh will be leaving for michigan if “Rich Rod” has a bad year. What an outrageous claim to make. Harbaugh has expressed no interested in the Michigan job, and has even publicly criticized Michigan’s program.
    It’s a shameful, cheeky, baseless claim. Stanford is vastly richer than Michigan, has infinitely better weather, and is full of important people like Condi Rice that Harbaugh likes rubbing shoulders with. To suggest that he’s going to leave as soon as the Michigan job opens is just a disgusting way of insulting the university and its alumni. You should be ashamed of yourself.
    Andrew Luck has said that he feels he needs to complete his degree before leaving for the NFL. And he has two more years of eligibility, not one. Keith Arnold has clearly demonstrated that he’s unfit for journalism.

  8. brendan_g - Sep 24, 2010 at 7:14 PM

    @sweetpete totally agree with you on the display of toughness. i know these guys are tough but they aren’t showing enough attitude. i would totally take a 15 yard personal foul here or there as long as it sent the message that you can’t come to south bend and leave without an ass kicking regardless of the final score.

  9. jarious - Sep 24, 2010 at 7:24 PM

    Sensitive much? Stanford is obviously a fine institution, Condi Rice and all, but it’s hard to argue that it carries the prestige of a school like Michigan, in terms of football. Maybe Harbaugh stays there for 30 years, woo-hoo, but Michigan is clearly a better football job. Plus, you take Luck leaving Stanford early for the NFL as an insult?

  10. TLNDMA - Sep 24, 2010 at 7:44 PM

    AC, if you’re saying Michigan sucks, I agree. If Luck is going to be first pick and passes up millions, that’s silly.

  11. BryanW - Sep 24, 2010 at 7:50 PM

    Do you cry on all of your opponent’s blogs, or just this one? Stanford has a solid program this year and has always been a premier academic institution, but come on man. Even you know that Stanford is not a destination head coaching job. Michigan is still one of the top coaching jobs in the country. Harbaugh may not take it, but you have to at least acknowledge that it would be a good move for him, even if he hadn’t been a star quarterback there (he was). As far as Luck, it’s not out of the question for athletes at good schools to graduate in 3 and a half years. Even if he doesn’t, it’s not poor journalism to assume that the projected #1 overall pick might consider entering the draft. There is no need to insult Keith personally, especially if you don’t know what you are talking about. Stop commenting on college football blogs if you don’t know anything about college football. You should be ashamed of yourself!

  12. Sean Wells - Sep 24, 2010 at 9:38 PM

    Well this hasn’t been the start any ND fan has been hoping for, and Stanford is a definite Rose Bowl contender this season…but Kelly has to turn things around if he wants to be the first 10 year coach in ND history. He is a brilliant play caller on offense and Saturday is going to showcase that. The defense has to play good enough, not great for a ND win and it can definitely do that. If ND can pull off a win against Stanford it will turn their season around. That’s what’s going to happen. LETS GO IRISH!!!

  13. mp3 - Sep 24, 2010 at 11:50 PM

    i really should not reply to the drivel you spew but please stop…….foolish little boy

  14. Reality! - Sep 25, 2010 at 12:34 AM

    AC, AC, AC! Outrageous! Sounds like your PRAYING that Harbaugh doesn’t end up at Michigan. Try not to appear so weak. When Rich Rod beats Notre Dame two years in a row, you seem to know what Jimmy would do to the Irish. Not pretty but vastly richer! Smart man! Shame on Jim Harbaugh???, which you implied… are you kidding me! Shame on Stanford for drafting a contract that lets him leave for the Michigan job any time he wants.

  15. terry - Sep 25, 2010 at 7:53 AM

    Agreed. But you can’t blame the coaches – you either have attitude or you don’t and so far they have shown no sign of it. It has to come on defense.
    AC – Condi Rice did her PG work @ Notre Dame.
    Where is Hughes?

  16. Danno27 - Sep 25, 2010 at 7:57 AM

    @brendan_g, Agree with you totally – much rather have Richrod than Harbaugh on the sidelines in Ann Arbor.
    @AC: I’m sure Harbaugh gets little thrills every time he rubs shoulders with Condi, but don’t think that’ll change him bolting for Michigan as soon as the right opportunity came up – coach for your alma mater, be the Michigan man to bring the program back to glory? That would be a heavy draw. Why do you think he criticized the program if he doesn’t care about it?

  17. warrenjp - Sep 25, 2010 at 9:55 AM

    Notre Dame and Stanford were the #2 and #4 most exciting teams in 2009, respectively, according to Moreover, Notre Dame is #1 in game excitement so far in 2010. This should be a awesome game!

  18. TLNDMA - Sep 25, 2010 at 10:15 AM

    The media being banned from practice was only a matter of time. If Kelly thinks it gives ND a competitive advantage, then fine by me. I suppose it will make the ND beat guy’s jobs tougher. C’est la vie.

  19. SpankMonkey - Sep 25, 2010 at 11:23 AM

    I sure hope ND wins today
    Really really hope they do
    I think they can do it
    Stanford is good
    Hope they have an off day
    Saturdays are Irish holidays
    Unless you are not a ND fan
    Can I get a whoop whoop (palms in the air)
    Keep up the good work ND

  20. Michael - Sep 25, 2010 at 12:46 PM

    Go Irish!
    The Notre Dame football team is OK. Progress is being made. Look at what Coach Kelly inherited. Poor recruiting, poor development, a sense of entitlement, a me first mentality, players not in shape etc. etc.
    This is a work in progress. Notre Dame beats Stanford. Go Irish!

  21. #1 IRISHFAN - Sep 25, 2010 at 1:00 PM

    Did anyone see BGSU get ripped off of a TD against UM!!!! Total disregard for any kind of civility!!!

  22. Joseph - Sep 25, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    Rice is a dumb bitch…ND grad my ass

  23. IrishHandGrenade - Sep 25, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    This is the most ridiculous comment I have ever read. please, for the love of all that is good, pull your head from your colon and breathe clean air.

  24. patrick - Sep 25, 2010 at 1:59 PM

    irish fan?? great attitude!!

  25. patrick - Sep 25, 2010 at 2:17 PM


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