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irish insider

Head to head: Stanford

| Saturday, November 30, 2019

Notre Dame Passing 

Stanford is 90th in the nation in defensive efficiency, an unimpressive stat line even for a team in a mediocre Pac-12 conference. The Cardinal have given up over 40 points to three teams this season, and the Irish have dropped some big numbers on better defenses, like Navy for example. We all know the passing unit has had its struggles this season, but with the momentum its gained from the past three wins, and considering Stanford’s subpar defense, the Irish should get the edge on this one. 

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Notre Dame Rushing 

It has been an up and down year for the Irish rushing attack. Junior back Jafar Armstrong’s week one injury put the role firmly in the hands of senior Tony Jones Jr. for much of the season, and injuries on the offensive line have made his job no easier. However, the makeshift offensive line performed well against Boston College, opening up running lanes for five different rushers to record carries for double-digit yards. The team is 50th in total rushing yards this season, and will have a solid opportunity to do so against a Stanford team that allows 147 rushing yards per game. Jones has not gone over 100 yards since USC, expect to see the Irish coaching staff try to fix that this weekend.

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Notre Dame Offensive Coaching 

Credit to Chip Long for the way this offense has finally come out of its shell as the season has worn down, even if it has been against subpar and overmatched competition. The slow start by the offense against Boston College, as Brian Kelly acknowledged, can be credited to the Eagles using a bye week to put together a confusing scheme that worked well initially. While it took two turnovers in Boston College territory for the offense to capitalize and really blow the game open, the offense remains efficient when within striking distance of the endzone. Cardinal junior cornerback Paulson Adebo, who leads the team with 10 pass break-ups and four of their eight interceptions, and senior free safety Malik Antoine are both out for this game with injury. Given that Notre Dame’s bread and butter offensively is through the air and the Cardinal are already surrendering 281 passing yards per game, the Irish should be able to pick apart a depleted Stanford defense.

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Notre Dame Offensive Special Teams 

Notre Dame’s offensive special teams unit has been solid, even great at times. Graduate student receiver Chris Finke has shown why he’s earned the nickname Slippery Fox in the backfield and Jonathan Doerer has made significant improvements, proving to be a consistent force on the Irish offense. Meanwhile, the Cardinal defense has not been too impressive stopping the run game on returns, with their opponents averaging over 21 yards per return. Notre Dame is on-par if not better than most any team in the Pac-12 so this should be an area they are able to exploit.

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Stanford Passing 

The Stanford passing attack has taken a hit this season, due in part to more defensive attention since their run game has felt the departure of star running back Bryce Love. However, the greater blow has been several injuries suffered by senior quarterback K.J. Costello who will not see the field against the Irish, leaving the offense in the hands of junior quarterback Davis Mills. Mills has completed 130 of 195 passes, good for a 67% completion rate, but has only thrown nine touchdowns to five interceptions in seven games. It doesn’t help that the Cardinal ground game has been lackluster all year, but the fact remains that the offense is incredibly one-dimensional. Given that Notre Dame has the fifth-best pass efficiency defense in the country and an experienced secondary, it should be a long day for the Cardinal through the air in this one.

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Stanford Rushing 

Stanford’s starting running back senior Cameron Scarlett, has had a breakout season in his fourth year with the Cardinal. After the loss of Bryce Love to the Washington Redskins in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, Scarlett has stepped up to fill the vacancy in the backfield. Scarlett has put up more yards through a few more carries than Love did last year with 797 through 188 attempts and six touchdowns to Love’s 739 through 166 attempts with a total of six touchdowns in 2018. Scarlett is a significantly bigger running back, making his running style completely different than what the Irish saw in South Bend last year. However, Scarlett’s longest run of the season was for 26 yards. So a strong line will be able to stop him and if he manages to break through the line he will be faced with one of the best defensive secondaries in the country, a defense that has given up four yards per play this season; Scarlett averages 4.2 yards per attempt. 

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Stanford Offensive Coaching 

The Stanford coaches have had to grapple with a ton of adversity this season, losing starting quarterback K.J. Costello three separate times due to various head, hand and thumb injuries. They will be without Costello again this weekend, but the team has not been afraid to let backup Davis Mills throw the ball. Mills threw 35 times, a large number for backup compared to their 24 team rushes. Head coach David Shaw said he wants the team to come out more balanced in the first three quarters this week to take some pressure off Mills. It would certainly help him if they could establish more of a run game than they have in recent weeks, because if they end up being forced to throw often on first and second down this one could get ugly for the Cardinal.

EDGE: Notre Dame

 

Stanford Offensive Special Teams 

Home-field advantage plays a huge part in any special teams matchup. Stanford’s kicker is actually pretty impressive. Jet Toner was named Preseason All Pac-12 first team, and he’s been All Pac-12 two times in his career. All in all, especially considering the home team advantage, it’s hard not to give Stanford the edge here. Notre Dame’s defensive special teams haven’t shown much, and the Cardinal should feed off the home crowd. 

EDGE: Stanford

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