Way-Too-Early Preview: Stanford
Observer Sports Staff | Thursday, May 6, 2021
Our final way-too-early preview of Notre Dame’s 2021 schedule features the Stanford Cardinal. The Irish will renew the tradition of heading west to California on Thanksgiving weekend to conclude their regular season schedule.
Opponent: Stanford Cardinal
Date: Saturday, Nov. 27
Location: Stanford Stadium
History of the Matchup: This year’s matchup will be the renewal of a storied rivalry that was put on hold in 2020 due to the pandemic. Last year was the first time since 1987 that the two teams did not face off. The Irish have found success in the all-time series, holding a 21-13 record against the Cardinal. The first matchup came in the 1925 Rose Bowl when Knute Rockne led his squad to a 27-10 victory, capping Notre Dame’s national championship season. The most recent game was a 45-24 Notre Dame victory in the season finale in 2019.
Other notable matchups include the 2012 matchup in which Notre Dame needed a goal-line stand to stop Stanford inches short of a touchdown in overtime. Notre Dame went on to play in the national championship game that year. In 2014, the Irish were trailing late in the contest but Everett Golson threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Ben Koyack to give the Irish the lead for good. The next season, Deshone Kizer came up with similar late-game heroics for the Irish, but the defense allowed Stanford to march down the field and win the game in the dying seconds. Another top-10 matchup came in 2018 when Notre Dame dominated the Cardinal 38-17 behind four touchdowns from Ian Book.
Stanford finished the 2020 season a high note, winning its last four contests, each by five or fewer points. The Cardinals opened the Pac-12’s delayed, conference-only schedule with back to back losses to Oregon and Colorado, but quickly righted the ship to finish 4-2.
Offensively, they were led by quarterback Davis Mills, who threw for 1508 yards and seven touchdowns against three interceptions. Running back Austin Jones ran for 550 yards and nine touchdowns. By far their biggest receiving threat was Simi Fehoko, who finished the year with 37 catches for 574 yards and three touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, linebackers Curtis Robinson and Levani Damuni each had more than 40 tackles. Defensive end Thomas Schaffer led the pass rush with three sacks.
Mills departs for the NFL, as does Fehoko and two of their leading offensive lineman. Jones returns, and he should anchor the offense as one of the conference’s top running backs, especially given the inexperience at quarterback and receiver. The Cardinals also lose a number of contributors on defense, including Robinson and Schaffer.
However, a number of seniors will return for their fifth year, including wide receiver Cameron Buzzell, tight end Tucker Fisk, fullback Houston Heimuli, defensive end Ryan Johnson, linebackers Thunder Keck and Gabe Reid, defensive tackle Dalyn Wade-Perry and free safety Noah Williams, giving Stanford an experienced defensive group.
Stanford will look to build on its momentum from the 2020 season in what will be head coach David Shaw’s 11th year leading the program.
Liam Coolican — Sports Writer
This has all the makings of a trap game. A Notre Dame team that may well be in the hunt for a New Year’s Six or CFP spot, on the road against a Stanford team that will certainly be motivated given it is the final game and a rivalry contest. Under David Shaw, the Cardinal have been a tough out for the Irish. Despite this, the disparity in talent between the two sides is simply too large to justify picking an upset. Stanford lost Davis Mills and his top receiving threat, and the defense was suspect last year. Notre Dame gets going quickly and doesn’t look back.
Notre Dame 38, Stanford 13