Turning the focus to Stanford

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The scene is the locker room was far from what you’d expect after a final home victory in Notre Dame Stadium. With his college career ending on a note he never thought possible just hours before, Jonas Gray addressed his teammates, emotionally imploring them to finish the job this season, even if he wouldn’t be able to join them in doing it.

With that, the Irish turned their focus to Stanford, understanding that redemption for two fluke losses and laying an egg against the team’s biggest rival can come with an impressive performance against Stanford.

Of course, the Irish won’t head to Palo Alto fully loaded. Offensively, the Irish will miss Gray and his power running style, running behind a line no longer anchored by center Braxston Cave. Depending on the health of a balky hamstring, Theo Riddick might moon-light at running back, with Brian Kelly acknowledging the one-game season that lies ahead, and that the moment might be too big to thrust freshmen George Atkinson and Cam McDaniel into.

On defense, the Irish are getting more from defensive end Ethan Johnson, who will have to dominate at the point of attack and prove his ankle is fully healthy. They’ll need Sean Cwynar and Louis Nix — both coming off strong games — to hold their gaps as they prepare to face off with Stanford’s offensive line, anchored by Outland Trophy finalist David DeCastro. But the Irish might not have Stephon Tuitt available, as Pete Sampson of IrishIllustrated.com reports the powerful freshman is battling mononucleosis, which would make Saturday’s game all but an impossibility.

In a primetime showdown that’ll be broadcast to every home in America, we’ll find out if the Irish are ready to pass their final exam. Liam McHugh and the crew from Versus’ College Football Talk breakdown the game, and Thanksgiving or not, we’ll have plenty for you to read about this week.

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