WHO? No. 16 Notre Dame (9-2) at Stanford (4-7).
WHAT? A chance for the Irish to get their first win at Stanford since 2007. Five games is not inherently that long of a stretch, especially since Notre Dame has won three of five at home. 3-7 in the last 10 is not exactly even, literally speaking, but this rivalry is far from lopsided.
Yet that bugaboo at Stanford has persisted, and persisted is the right word, because the Irish falls in the Bay Area have each come in a new and increasingly painful way.
2009: Toby Gerhart scored a last-minute touchdown to give the Cardinal a 45-38 win in Charlie Weis’ last game coaching Notre Dame.
2011: Andrew Hendrix subbed in for Tommy Rees, and even though neither was able to spark the Irish offense, the true culprit was the ground game, gaining 57 yards on 31 carries.
2013: Two fourth-quarter turnovers doomed Notre Dame, 27-20.
2015: A 45-yard field goal as time expired, the end of a 5-play, 45-yard, 30-second drive, knocked the Irish out of a possible Playoff berth.
2017: Three fourth-quarter turnovers turned a 24-20 deficit into a 38-20 loss and cost Notre Dame a New Year’s Six appearance.
WHEN? 4:00 ET. Few things are better than a 1 p.m. local kick, and to Irish fans, it is a rare commodity, so much so it borders on unknown.
WHERE? Stanford Stadium, Palo Alto, Calif., colloquially known as “The Farm.” The Cardinal is 3-3 at home this season, losing to Oregon, UCLA and Cal. Stanford has not lost four games at home in one year since going 2-6 in 2007. You may sense a theme here.
Checking the local forecast, as of late Friday afternoon, is a frustrating necessity. An 85 percent chance of rain an hour falls all the way to 80 percent by halftime. Temperatures in the 50s will be complemented by 22 miles per hour winds. Packing an umbrella in the carry-on may not have been enough of a precaution.
FOX has the broadcast. There is some form of a Fox Sports Go app, but this space is rather unfamiliar with it.
WHY? As the Irish have found some recent stability, the Cardinal has lost its. Going 9-4 last year was tolerable, but it leading to a 4-7, perhaps 4-8, season creates the same versions of unsettled angst as Notre Dame felt in 2016, perhaps even more so given the last two years combined for nine losses.
Irish head coach Brian Kelly argued Monday a win this weekend, a third in a row in the series, would not create a distinct shift between the two programs, but there is plenty of reason to doubt that.
“There are some clear distinctions between the two schools that we have seen over the last few years that start to separate the recruits as it relates to whether they go to Notre Dame or whether they go to Stanford,” Kelly said. “There’s no mistaking a win over a school that you’re recruiting some players (against) is going to be helpful, but I think what we’ve seen more than anything else is that there are different distinctions between the two schools, as well.”
BY HOW MUCH? The chill has fallen into the Bay Area, Friday happy hours are about to end, and the pertinent over/under has fallen from 52 to 46.5 in the last 36 hours or so. Some of that could be attributed to savvy moves, but they would usually have taken hold a bit earlier in the week. Rather, it is a reflection of the weather. More precisely, a reflection of the wind.
Combine that with Notre Dame’s improving defense — giving up 13.5 points per game in November — the possibility of a low-scoring, mind-numbing endeavor becomes likely. The Irish are favored by 16.5, making for a projected final of 32-15. One can be forgiven for doubting the remaining Stanford stars can even manage 15 points.
A struggling offense meeting an aggressive defense with nature’s wrath pending …
Notre Dame 31, Stanford 13.
(10-1 in pick; 5-6 against the spread, 5-6 point total.)
INSIDE THE IRISH READING:
— The future of Notre Dame’s home (and ACC) success
— A newfound Citrus Bowl possibility
— And In That Corner … The woebegone Stanford Cardinal
— Things To Learn: As always, Notre Dame-Stanford defined by trenches
— Friday at 4: 40 Notre Dame givings of thanks