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Game Day: No. 7 Notre Dame vs. No. 17 Stanford

Oct 13, 2012, 9:55 AM EDT

Notre Dame v Michigan State Getty Images

You’ll have to forgive me if my crystal ball seems a little cloudy this morning. I could blame the cobwebs from a long night of travel. But it’s getting a handle on what kind of team No. 17 Stanford is that I’m struggling with.

While the Cardinal have one of the country’s most impressive victories on their resume, there are still plenty of variables I’m not sure about. How do you explain their pedestrian escape against San Jose State or their defensive implosion against Arizona last week? Their loss to Washington – the only road game the Cardinal have played thus far – made Stanford look pretty limited offensively, not all that different than the Michigan State team Notre Dame handled. But in their 21-14 victory over the Trojans, David Shaw’s squad showed they were still the physically dominant team that shutdown Notre Dame’s offense the past two seasons.

As we head towards kickoff, here are a few questions I haven’t quite answered yet.

Can Everett Golson beat this Stanford defense?

Most people accuse me of being too hard on Golson, but I’m a big believer in his future with the Irish. But young quarterbacks against Stanford’s defense don’t necessarily thrive.

Nobody has been able to line up and run the ball against Stanford, and the Irish certainly haven’t been able to the past two seasons. While Golson has the ability to make things happen with his feet, he’s going to have to beat the Cardinal with his arm… and his head.

If there’s a weakness in this Stanford defense, it’s in the secondary. But Golson, who is still learning how to be a student of the game and exploit favorable match-ups with Tyler Eifert, needs to take advantage of the opportunities he’s presented. If he can make some big plays down field when he gets the right pre-snap reads, the Irish should win this game.

Can the Irish get a big play or score from the defense or special teams?

It’s hard to say anything negative about Bob Diaco’s defense. It might be heresy, but the Irish are playing as good of defense as they’ve played in a very long time – and that includes under head coach Lou Holtz. But if the Irish are going to win this weekend, getting a big play out of the defense or special teams is imperative. The Irish didn’t force a turnover or get a sack against Miami. They’ll need to do some of both on Saturday afternoon.

Just as important, it’s time for the Irish special teams to make a leap forward. Nobody expects a trick play out of Scott Booker’s troops, but most would settle for Ben Turk launching a punt and flipping the field. George Atkinson is due to break a kick return and Davonte Neal still needs to get loose in the open field. Without Ty Montgomery returning kicks for Stanford, the Irish kick coverage team needs to get back to their dominant ways. Winning a game like today’s requires a complete performance from the team. And getting a few big plays from the defense and special teams will go a long way.

Can the Irish weather the storm? Literally.

This afternoon has the chance to become one of those instant classics. With rain predicted for much of the afternoon, and thunderstorms coming around game time, it’s looking like weather will certainly be a factor. Can the Irish hold onto the football and get accurate throws from Everett Golson? Can they move the chains if this turns into a slugfest? Will the surprisingly decent playing surface hold up this afternoon?

Stanford played the second-half of their season last year in a mud bowl at Stanford Stadium and they’re built to battle in the trenches. But if the Irish match that intensity, they’re built to do the same thing.

Most people are starting to believe the Irish have arrived. In the past, that usually ended badly. Will this year be any different?

A quick perusal across the internet has more pundits picking the Irish to win than lose, with ESPN’s arrival on campus almost validation that Notre Dame has once again come back into the land of relevancy when it comes to BCS appearances and – gasp! – national title aspirations. But can the Irish continue to win when it’s expected of them?

In years past, Notre Dame let defining moments define them. Whether it was Charlie Weis’ signature loss to USC, disappointments in back-to-back BCS bowls or the Irish stubbing their toe against USC and Florida State last season, Brian Kelly and his team believe this season is different.

Las Vegas believes in the Irish, tabbing them a touchdown favorite. With all eyes on Notre Dame, can the No. 7 Irish win a game that could vault into even loftier territory?

  1. ndfaithful - Oct 13, 2012 at 9:59 AM

    First today? Maybe?

    GO IRISH!!!!!!

  2. ndgiants11 - Oct 13, 2012 at 10:11 AM

    “Aaron Lynch, was Game Day at your wedding?” might be the funniest sign I’ve seen yet.


    Though, tip of the hat to the Dumb and Dumber cover with Mark May and Rick Reilly’s heads on it.

    • 9irish - Oct 13, 2012 at 11:16 AM

      I think “Catholics Vs. Conifers” is pretty clever, too.

      • bernhtp - Oct 13, 2012 at 11:42 AM

        Sadly, most people won’t get it. I needed to explain it to my wife.

    • dmac4real - Oct 13, 2012 at 12:41 PM

      This one was my favorite:

      (Sorry, I dont know how to do Images within posts. Gotta go old school and give the link).

      • nudeman - Oct 13, 2012 at 12:54 PM

        Everett Slays Pu**y Nightly

        Did not know dickasman was going to the game

    • joeschu - Oct 13, 2012 at 12:58 PM

      Lei the Lumbaaaaa (pic of Teo)
      Stanford likes nickleback
      Hey SEC this is what a library looks like

      My personal top 3

    • runners00 - Oct 13, 2012 at 1:09 PM

      We should be thanking Mark May and Rick Reilly. I mean, when I think about how we are playing right now, I wonder how it must feel to look as ignorant as Mark May and Rick Reilly.

      Let’s get out there and physically own another great team. Let’s Go Irish!

      • 9irish - Oct 13, 2012 at 3:23 PM

        This is true, but I think May believes about 25% of what he says as part of his Lou Holtz “schtick”. Reilly is the one that pissed me off.

  3. ndfaithful - Oct 13, 2012 at 10:15 AM

    Maybe one component to the Stanford ‘mystery’ is that USC may just not be as good as we all thought. Take that jewel out of Stanfords crown and they don’t look very impressive. USC hasn’t exactly blown people off the line of scrimmage this year in any of their games. USC has struggled at times against other teams like Syracuse and Utah. So if you consider that USC may have just laid an egg that day, or that they’re just not that good, then Stanford starts to look consistently mediocre.

    While it’s possible that Stanford will come out fired up and play their best game of the year, I expect them to look like a physical, but predictable and unexplosive team. I think this game starts to look like the MSU game by halftime. Except – the Irish are more explosive now.

    With all that said – here’s what I expect:

    1. ND’s defense to show up again and take this game as a challenge. Throw in a turnover or score or two and it could get ugly for Stanford.

    2. ND’s running game to be respectable, but EG to be the difference-maker. If he plays well, we win going away. I expect his line to look something like 27-35 with about 300 yards+. If he plays poorly, it’s anybody’s game.

    3. Kelly seems to have game that varies widely based on his opponent. I think you’ll see a lot of spread formations today and short throws to wide and slot receivers. I look for Toma and Jones to make a lot of catches with an occasional gash by Eifert in the seams.

    4. With Stanford getting more desperate in the 4th quarter, and Manti thing – I think you’ll see GAIII hurt Stanford and seal the game.

    Too much speed, to much determination at ND for the Tree to withstand.

    ND 27
    Stanford 9

    GO IRISH!!!

  4. crturner84 - Oct 13, 2012 at 10:33 AM

    Go Irish!

  5. ct111 - Oct 13, 2012 at 10:45 AM

    I like how everybody is predicting ND to win this game. This years team is pretty good especially the defense. However, I believe this game will be very close and ND will lose. I don’t think ND is ready to handle the pressure of winning big games.

    • 9irish - Oct 13, 2012 at 11:03 AM

      Big games? c’mon now! Hey, I think this will be a battle but this is the only “normal” home game they have played except Purdue. They flew to Ireland to play at 0900 EST, at MSU at night, Michigan at night, Miami at night in Chicago in weird uniforms. I really don’t think they are going to be “shell-shocked” by the spotlight. The least of my worries.

      • Jennifer - Oct 13, 2012 at 11:31 AM

        And we can be sure the coaches hammer this point in with every recruit. ONLY at ND!

  6. crturner84 - Oct 13, 2012 at 10:50 AM

    Dumb and dumber sign one of the best. Just think the crowd on GameDay could be alot louder.

  7. c4evr - Oct 13, 2012 at 3:33 PM

    Great piece on the program just aired. If that doesn’t boost recruiting, nothing will. And nice to see that Cam M got lots of air time, he deserves it.

  8. norcalirish - Oct 14, 2012 at 6:48 AM

    “Will the surprisingly decent playing surface hold up this afternoon?”

    This game was a 9 out of 10. Replace the natural turf and it becomes a 7 out of 10. Games like this were meant to be played in the mud.

    Real grass forever!!!

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