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Another Saturday, another biggest game of the year

Oct 9, 2012, 12:32 PM EDT

Miami v Notre Dame Getty Images

It’s that kind of season. With Notre Dame off to a 5-0 start, it’s beginning to feel like a Yogi Berra quote. Another Saturday, another biggest game of the year.

If you wanted, you could probably make that argument just about every Saturday. The past three games certainly qualified. With Michigan State, the Irish had their chance to vanquish an ugly streak and beat a top ten team on the road. Brian Kelly called the Irish’s dominant 20-3 victory a “signature win,” and even if the Spartans have failed to hold up their end of the bargain, the victory certainly had a monumental feel to it at the time, if only because it got the mainstream media talking about this team and wondering if the Irish might just be for real.

If beating Michigan State was big for the team’s national profile, beating the Wolverines was gigantic for ND Nation. There were a lot of ghosts in Notre Dame Stadium that night — and the Irish defense slayed them all. With Manti Te’o etching his legend in stone and the defense playing up to their maxim of “B.I.A. — Best In America,” it was a cathartic evening in South Bend, and a perfect way for the Irish to send out Denard Robinson.

Different song, same dance for the Irish in Soldier Field. Putting up a score like 41-3 upped the Irish profile, especially when top ten teams around the country were exposed for being paper tigers hiding behind a soft schedule or big preseason expectations.

(Perhaps Les Miles was so angry about Gunner Kiel staying home in Indiana because he knew what he had at quarterback in Zach Mettenberger . It’s crazy to think that the Irish’s fourth-string QB could possibly be starting for LSU.)

Notre Dame’s convincing win against Miami was another therapeutic step for a fanbase still flinching every time they see the first sign of adversity, gun-shy after years of frustration. Just as important, it was the first time in a long time where a marquee opponent let the moment get too big for them.  Too often, it’s been easy for teams to play their best and rise to the occasion of playing Notre Dame. But not against this team. Miami head coach Al Golden said he had never seen anything like the case of drops his wide receivers had on Saturday night. Mental mistakes can come from pressing, and trying to do too much. They can also come from an intimidation factor. Not to say that’s the case, but it’s been a long time since you could call Notre Dame intimidating without hearing someone laugh.

And that brings us to Stanford. The next biggest game of the year. We all know ESPN will be in town, creating a circus-like atmosphere and bringing a ton of attention to the resurgent Irish. But looking at the schedule, there’s no game that the Irish truly need to have more than this one. When you’re 5-0, every game is critical, but from a pragmatic point of view, beating the Cardinal gives Notre Dame a good shot of losing just two games, even conceding tough Saturdays against Oklahoma and USC. With five winnable games where the Irish should be sizable favorites, a 10-2 season for Notre Dame means a BCS birth, especially with this schedule.

Sure, this kind of looking ahead is the type of thing that gets teams beat. It’s also the type of white noise that Brian Kelly has kept out of his locker room, with strong veteran leadership keeping this group focused on the task at hand.

Beating Stanford won’t be easy. The Irish haven’t been within two touchdowns of the Cardinal in Kelly’s two seasons in South Bend. The three-game losing streak against Stanford is the longest in the series, with the Irish never before losing even two-straight to the visitors from Palo Alto. Without Andrew Luck, the offense is still a work-in-progress, but they exploded for 54 points last weekend, winning a second-half shootout against Arizona. Stanford’s 3-4 defense, with two excellent outside linebackers in Chase Thomas and Trent Murphy, and stout defensive end Ben Gardner, poses a serious threat and will be Everett Golson’s largest test to date.

Stanford heads to South Bend ranked No. 17 and owning one very large W against Lane Kiffin’s USC squad. It may not be the brightest match-up on the marquee, but it certainly is the biggest game of the year.

(At least for another week.)

  1. dudeacow - Oct 9, 2012 at 12:40 PM

    Will the game be broadcasted on ESPN and NBC?

    • nudeman - Oct 9, 2012 at 12:42 PM

      Jesus … you new to college football, dude?

    • nudeman - Oct 9, 2012 at 12:45 PM

      Just checked and I think History Channel has also got it

      • bernhtp - Oct 9, 2012 at 12:58 PM

        I’m taking a cue from dickasman and watching it on the Playboy Channel.

    • Jennifer - Oct 9, 2012 at 1:48 PM

      Yes, it will, dude. We’re all in luck! (ignore those guys below…they’re just playing with you.)

      • Jennifer - Oct 9, 2012 at 4:13 PM

        Sorry, Dudeacow and guys…my mistake. NBC broadcast at 2:30.

      • brazilianirish - Oct 9, 2012 at 7:26 PM

        An elegant mistake…

    • chisports14 - Oct 9, 2012 at 2:13 PM

      No. NBC only

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Oct 9, 2012 at 2:30 PM


      this isn’t the presidential debate….one channel

    • 808raiderinparadise - Oct 9, 2012 at 3:12 PM

      Stanford has a physical front 7 on Defense. Nothing better than MSU for that matter.

      The QB is not accurate and has a good TE in Toilolo, after that the power is the RB (like Bell from MSU)…

      This team reminds me of MSU all-around, excpet this game is in South Bend.

      GA III will ge tmore touches, he simply has to as the season goes. He puts things on film that worry d-coordinators and he can help the passing game and mis-direction play actions with his speed threat.

      Have to stick with the turnover trends and ND wins 31 to 13

      • andy44teg - Oct 9, 2012 at 4:03 PM

        I still say ND holds Standford TD-less..and stick to my early prediction of 27-9

      • andy44teg - Oct 9, 2012 at 4:06 PM

        I don’t know if any of you guys/gals watched the Stanford/Washington game, but the Cardinal just looked awful on offense. I know they exploded against UA but Arizona is not in the same class as Washington (which doesn’t say much). I think our D has another big day, and Manti moves up a notch on the Heisman Watch!

      • nudeman - Oct 9, 2012 at 4:18 PM

        Saw that game and agree
        Nunes in particular was unimpressive

    • dudeacow - Oct 9, 2012 at 3:52 PM

      Well you guys answered nothing. I have a yes, a no, and someone who just ignored my question. I’m gonna do something crazy now and actually CHECK IT MYSELF. Yes, you heard that right.

      • andy44teg - Oct 9, 2012 at 4:07 PM

        dude…don’t have a cow…the game is exclusively on NBC

      • papadec - Oct 10, 2012 at 3:01 AM

        dude – It’s a ND home game – so it’s on NBC. I know it’s that Game Day Dog & Pony zoo – but @ espn they list it as a 3:30 pm (ET) start on NBC.

  2. clownsfan - Oct 9, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    I cannot stand ESPN.

    • 808raiderinparadise - Oct 9, 2012 at 3:26 PM

      Well ESPN does a great job of focusingon ND no matter how good or bad, they are a huge part of ND’s exposure and why NBC is grinning when ND has a 3 win season and still has zero dip in ratings.

      ESPN loves ND … might as well be mutual.

      • papadec - Oct 10, 2012 at 3:03 AM

        808 – uhhhhhhhhhh espn loves to HATE ND.

    • zorichmidriff - Oct 9, 2012 at 4:05 PM

      F ESPN and F the Tree. No other team I want to humble other than U$C.

      Please, more touches for GAIII and, for the love of God, get Cam McDaniel in there. Also, I know Diaco hardly ever blitzes, but it would be sweet to see a beatdown on that clown they’ve got starting under center.

      Go Irish! Chop down the Tree!

  3. irish4006 - Oct 9, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    Great Article, Keith!

    My most favorite line, “Sure, this kind of looking ahead is the type of thing that gets teams beat. It’s also the type of white noise that Brian Kelly has kept out of his locker room, with strong veteran leadership keeping this group focused on the task at hand.” One of the biggest annoyances (there were several) from CW era was this questionable “motivational” tactics CW applied each week based on the opposition. The coaches can handle the “they are a very good team with a number of key playmakers, which makes it so difficult to prepare for a team like *insert name*…” As far as preparation go, the name, record, past history etc. should have no bearing on how we prepare.

    My least favorite line, “It’s crazy to think that the Irish’s fourth-string QB could possibly be starting for LSU.” What you say is true, but sounds pretty obnoxious (not funny), considering the fact that he is a first class talent being developed for future and not just your average scholarship filler.

  4. bernhtp - Oct 9, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    Getting back to Stanford, their D seems really big and strong. However, I don’t see the team speed we have. They will likely have success in stopping the run over the middle and will create some pass rush, I don’t think they can match our speed around the edge. Pitches, swing passes, reverses, other misdirection should be used to spring speed guys like GA3 around the edge. Using the QB read option will also keep them more honest and centered.

    RichRod’s spread scored a lot of points against them last week and he doesn’t even have our skill talent, never mind our defense which will keep Stanford from matching.

    ND 27-13

    • dudeacow - Oct 9, 2012 at 4:35 PM

      Stanford’s top WR Ty Montgomery is out for the game.

      Next leading WR is Drew Terrell who is averaging 2 catches and 28.6 yards a game.

      However, the top 2 pass catchers are the two tight ends and they are perfectly healthy.

    • papadec - Oct 10, 2012 at 3:09 AM

      bern – your usual insightful analysis – thank you. I think ND will grind them down by the 4th qtr, and we’ll get to see Cam again, at that time.

  5. smurphdoggy29 - Oct 9, 2012 at 3:01 PM

    Nude, ever vigilant on those who wander off the path ! Dickasman will I am sure correct them as well.

    Keith good article, and an excellent topic at this juncture.

    I agree that the Notre Dame faithful have to “relearn” how to be confident at every turn !

    I admit I do flinch sometimes when the team is up against it, and I am a bit Gun Shy when it comes to being enthusiastic about the chances, but that is starting to fade. I even had to laugh quietly at the comment, “it’s been a long time since you could call Notre Dame intimidating without hearing someone laugh.”, because I HAVE been in that spot !

    Now though I find the confidence coming back, why ? Because I have reviewed the Coaching Staff and Coach Kelly’s Blue Prints for success, I looked back and focused on what they said as they walked in the door. Things such as “process”, “takes time”, “RKG”, “development”, “Learning”, “foundation”, etc. I could go on and on.

    Yet when one thinks about these themes it becomes clear that the Staff had an idea of how they were going to approach the task at hand and, with Coach Kelly’s direction, what they were going to do to succeed. They have done so, even last season though many would balk at that, and the results speak loudly for themselves. Can and will they win them all this year ? Possibly. Can they win the majority in future seasons ? Most assuredly ! Why ? The foundation is in and the process is gaining traction !

    As long as the Coaching Staff remains focused on their task and the players on theirs we will continue to see noticeable gains.

    I firmly believe these Seniors (and Juniors) would like nothing more than to defeat Stanford, not to show that Andrew Luck was their only ticket to paradise, but because they know that the games played against them in the last few years weren’t Notre Dame’s best effort. Now they have the foundation from which to advance and win !

    GO Irish !
    Cut down the Tree (at least give it Japanese Beatles)
    Fight for Justice !
    God Bless and God Speed !

    • Jennifer - Oct 9, 2012 at 4:18 PM

      Love your closer, there, smurph!

    • rico75 - Oct 9, 2012 at 8:01 PM

      Japanese Beatles?!? You give Yoko way too much credit.

  6. idratherbeinsouthbend - Oct 9, 2012 at 3:05 PM

    Your moment of zen….(all times CST)

    EVERY ND opponent is televised again this week (BYU is a regional ABC game)

    Thursday — Western Kent. @ Tory — 6:30pm on ESPNU
    Thursday — Arizona St. @ Colorado — 8:00pm on ESPN
    Friday — Navy @ Central Mich. — 7:00pm on ESPN2
    Saturday — Louisville @ Pitt — 10:00am on ESPNU
    Saturday — Oklahoma @ Texas — 11:00am on ABC
    Saturday — Iowa @ Michigan St. — 11:00am on ESPN
    Saturday — Northwestern @ Minnesota — 11:00am on ESPN2
    Saturday — Brown @ Princeton — 11:00am on NBCSN
    Saturday — UAB @ Houston — 11:00am on FoxSportsRegional
    Saturday — Wisconsin @ Purdue — 11:00am on BigTenNetwork
    Saturday — Kansas State @ Iowa St. — 11:00am on FX
    Saturday — North Carolina @ Miami — 1:30pm on ESPNU
    Saturday — Utah @ UCLA — 2:00pm on Fox
    Saturday — Alabama @ Missouri — 2:30pm on CBS
    Saturday — Illinois @ Michigan — 2:30pm on ABC
    Saturday — West Virginia @ Texas Tech — 2:30pm on ESPN
    Saturday — Fresno St. @ Boise St. — 2:30pm on NBCSN
    Saturday — Oklahoma St. @ Kansas — 2:30pm on FoxSportsRegional
    Saturday — Stanford @ Notre Dame — 4:00pm on NBC
    Saturday — Boston College @ Florida State — 4:30pm on ESPN2
    Saturday — Florida @ Vanderbilt — 5:00pm on ESPNU
    Saturday — USC @ Washington — 6:00pm on Fox
    Saturday — South Carolina @ LSU — 7:00pm on ESPN
    Saturday — Ohio State @ Indiana — 7:00pm on BigTenNetwork
    Saturday — Tennessee @ Mississippi St. — 8:00pm on ESPN2
    Saturday — Texas A&M @ Louisiana Tech — 8:00pm on ESPNU

    • nudeman - Oct 9, 2012 at 3:31 PM

      WIll you pls post the Playboy Channel lineup?

      • brazilianirish - Oct 9, 2012 at 7:34 PM

        Love the post. Maybe the HBO…

  7. bernhtp - Oct 9, 2012 at 3:48 PM

    This is a really good article about Herbstreit’s Take On Notre Dame. I don’t disagree with anything.

    • brazilianirish - Oct 9, 2012 at 7:40 PM

      This guy said years ago that Notre Dame´s defense was a high school defense. Well, not these days…

  8. yaketyyacc - Oct 9, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    when we defeat Stanford. it is said with confidence, not arrogance, to a group of young football players, who have worked hard and long, improving each week. the sign reads, “play like champions”, and that is exactly what the Notre Dame Football team has done, and what is to be liked, they are still not satisfied, and again with confidence, this will mark after all, the midpoint of the season, to “play like National Champions”.

  9. c4evr - Oct 9, 2012 at 3:51 PM

    The appetizers and salad have been served, now it’s time for the meat of the schedule. Great cover story on Manti over at ESPN on why in the world he would choose ND over USC or BYU. Can’t believe he committed after the Syracuse game… had to be the lowest of the low points in the history of the program. Can anyone say Divine Intervention??

    • Jennifer - Oct 9, 2012 at 4:46 PM

      Divine Intervention!

      • papadec - Oct 10, 2012 at 3:22 AM

        C4 – Manti says it was Divine Intervention – that he prayed about the decision, and that was the answer he got.

      • c4evr - Oct 10, 2012 at 12:26 PM

        Actually, it sounded like the answer he DIDN’T want, but his faith made him listen. Think about it… the coldest day he’d ever experienced, ND not only losing, but having the students boo and pelt the sidelines with snowballs, not too mention he’s Mormon. That was one strong answer to a prayer!

  10. florida727 - Oct 9, 2012 at 4:38 PM

    The assumption is that Notre Dame will lose to Oklahoma and Southern Cal? Why? If you can beat Stanford and Stanford beat USC, shouldn’t you think in terms of beating USC? I know it all boils down to matchups and just because you beat someone who beat someone else, it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically win, but to just “assume” a loss at USC doesn’t make sense to me. Why can’t the Irish go undefeated?

    The other thing that caught my attention is the hype over beating Michigan. On other blog posts, Alabama gets criticized for beating the crap out of Michigan, because Michigan is “overrated”. Just another ‘easy’ win on Alabama’s soft schedule. So which is it? Is beating Michigan a big deal? Or are they overrated and beating them is no big deal? Or is the answer dependent on whether or not an SEC school is involved in the discussion?

    How about an Alabama v. Notre Dame national championship game?

    • bernhtp - Oct 9, 2012 at 5:44 PM

      It’s way premature to have confidence that we can run the table, but given how much this team has progressed, I am no longer discounting this as a possibility.

    • ndfaithful - Oct 9, 2012 at 6:05 PM

      I can’t speak for KA, but after reading the article, I don’t get the impression that he’s assuming we will lose to USC and Oklahoma. I’m not assuming that either. I got the impression that he’s saying that with each win, our worst case scenario gets better and better. There’s a big difference between having three losses and having two losses at the end of the season – namely BCS chances.

      I for one, think we could win ’em all. I also think we could lose a bunch if we don’t stay focused. I think we’re up to it. The fun part about being a fan is ‘we’ don’t have to stay focused at all!

      GO IRISH

    • papadec - Oct 10, 2012 at 3:27 AM

      I think Oregon is better than “BAMA. BUT, I think by the time the BCS Championship game rolls around, that ND will be able to beat either one of them (the way ND is progressing).

  11. gtizzo - Oct 9, 2012 at 5:05 PM

    Keith I’m a little surprised at you,

    Talking about Stanford’s win over USC like it was some great feat. The Trojans have a history of playing down to weaker in conference opponents. Pete Carroll started it and I guess Lane “big mouth” Kiffin will continue it. This is a big game for ND because it would break another losing streak. ND has also been beaten up in the trenches by Stanford and I think that changes on Saturday. Nunes new best friend will be the grass at Notre Dame stadium as he will see it early and often. He will get hit and hurried and sacked which will take Stanford out of the run game. Game Day being there is really just a non point. The fact they passed up ND versus Michigan State for Florida versus Tennessee shows how “SEC” centered they are. Lee “Mr Pencils” Corso will likely pick an upset win for Stanford based on that win over USC…and he will be proved wrong.

  12. rjamo123 - Oct 9, 2012 at 7:45 PM

    Going to make it back for my first game since Pitt 2 years ago and honestly couldn’t be more nervous. I love this team and something does feel a little different this year but I am still one of those fans who has just suffered to much to think we are going to take care of business this week. Especially with Stanfords TEs and our safety’s. We haven’t played well at all at home this year and to think that Stanford will turn the ball over like UM isn’t very realistic. Feel free to talk me out of my skepticism.

    • papadec - Oct 10, 2012 at 3:32 AM

      rjamo – I’ll let the ND team play do the talking.

  13. fitz79 - Oct 9, 2012 at 8:40 PM

    “Notre Dame’s fourth string QB could be a starter at LSU.” Man, it’s a good year to be Irish!

  14. loadofwash - Oct 9, 2012 at 9:36 PM

    ND 13 …… Stanford 42

    • ndgoldandblue - Oct 9, 2012 at 10:31 PM

      ND 5-0………loadofwash, a crazy glue sniffer.

      • ndgoldandblue - Oct 10, 2012 at 8:29 AM

        “Building model airplanes,” says loadofwash. Well, we’re not buying it. He sneaks into your house once, that’s all it takes. The next thing you know, there’s money missing off the dresser, and your daughter’s knocked up. I’ve seen it a hundred times.

  15. 1historian - Oct 9, 2012 at 10:00 PM

    2 years ago they kicked the shit out of us on OUR field. Their (very good) JERK of a coach egged them on.

    I don’t care how good they are – they can’t do any harm if they spend most of the afternoon on their asses looking up at the northern Indiana sky. And as we all know there is only one guaranteed way to get them on their asses – KNOCK them on their asses.


    • nudeman - Oct 10, 2012 at 12:40 PM

      I keep seeing references to Harbaugh being a jerk
      I have no recollection of him doing anything jerk-ish
      What did he do? They beat the shit out of us

      • c4evr - Oct 11, 2012 at 3:34 AM

        Jimmy Johnson defines jerk in my book, and Harbaugh couldn’t hold JJ’s jock strap when it comes to jerkdom… besides, he gets points in my book for knocking Pete Carroll down a few notches.

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