Staff Predictions: Notre Dame vs. Stanford
Notre Dame came in at No. 6 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings and has one game left to impress the College Football Playoff Committee. Can the Irish do enough at Stanford to get back to the semifinals? Members of the Observer Sports Staff gave their picks.
Aidan Thomas — Associate Sports Editor
My game story was largely written by halftime on Saturday, and I would love nothing more than for the same to hold true when I’m up late this weekend covering a game that was inexplicably given a primetime slot in what should just be a beatdown of epic proportions. Stanford has the 111th ranked offense and 97th ranked defense and is sitting at 3-8. Their last three losses have been by 45, 21 and 30 points, with two of those defeats at home. In the last three games, Notre Dame’s offense ranks 21st in points per game — Stanford ranks 126th. Their rush defense is second-worst among Power-5 schools. Meanwhile, Notre Dame’s defense has been the best in the country over the past three weeks in terms of the opponent’s points per play. The Irish will run wild in this one.
Mannion McGinley — Sports Editor
There is one weekend left in November and one game left on the Irish schedule. Why, now, should the Irish defense break their no-touchdown-November streak? They shouldn’t. And it’s highly likely they won’t. If anything, I’ll raise Em’s turnover count prediction last week from one to two as I expect to see the Irish defense have a field day. If there isn’t at least one pick-six, I’ll be shocked.
The offense won’t be left behind though. Stanford allowed the likes of UCLA, Cal and Washington State to put up more than 30 points. With 4 viable run options now and an official passing identity (at least according to tight end Michael Mayer), this offense should walk all over the Stanford defense. I expect to see Kyren Williams, Chris Tyree and Logan Diggs have a day quite like Saturday, leaving room for Audric Estime to take the field again and make his own space.
Slight concern comes in with the teams they have beaten, like USC, but the Irish did that too, did it better, and did it later in the season.
Ultimately, no stress this Thanksgiving weekend. For once, I’ll get on this train with confidence: Irish by a million.
Notre Dame 56, Stanford 6
Nate Moller — Sports writer
This game seems similar to two years ago when Notre Dame headed out to Stanford as big favorites against a struggling team. Despite being heavily favored in that game, the Irish struggled through the first part of the game and trailed 17-7 in the second quarter before winning 45-24. I anticipate this one being somewhat similar, as Stanford will treat this as their bowl game and might catch the Irish sleeping early on.
Although I anticipate the Cardinal to have an early lead, the Irish will wake up in the second quarter and go into the half with a two-touchdown lead. The second half should be all Irish in this one, as Stanford should not have the defense or offense to match up evenly with the Irish. Stanford gave up 41 points last week to a Cal team depleted by COVID, and I anticipate them to surrender plenty of points to an Irish offense that has looked unstoppable in recent weeks.
Jimmy Ward — Associate Sports Editor
Emily DeFazio — Associate Sports Editor
I’m gonna keep this one short and sweet, and maybe quit while I’m ahead after last week’s prediction. I expect this game to be similar to the Irish”s matchup against the Yellowjackets (maybe another pick-six in the first half … ?), while maybe allotting Stanford to get on the board considering the emphasis that the Cardinals place on this game. However, with the way the Notre Dame team is looking on both sides of the ball, this is the Irish’s game to lose. We’ll see if it’s enough to give them that playoff slot after the dust from the other teams settles.
Colin Capece — Assistant Managing Editor
Without a conference championship game two weeks from now, Notre Dame won’t have the same opportunity to impress the CFP committee other contenders like Alabama and Oklahoma State potentially will. In that case, the Irish need to have a completely dominate display against a woebegone Stanford team like they did against Georgia Tech on senior day. The Irish are a perfect example of how teams can dramatically improve over the course of the year. In September, we were talking about how this team couldn’t move the ball behind a terrible offensive line, but the unit has become the strength of the team as it has in years past. Notre Dame has figured out it’s quarterback situation, and freshman receivers Lorenzo Styles and Deion Colzie are finally playing meaningful snaps. Not to mention, the defense has grown into its identity as an aggressive squad that hunts for big plays under Marcus Freeman. This game isn’t going to be a game for very long considering that Stanford can’t run the ball or stop the run. Notre Dame wins big to leave a positive impression heading into conference championship weekend. I’ll see if I can match Emily’s prediction from last week and say the Irish come up with a pick six on their first defensive drive and never look back. If everything breaks their way, the Irish will be heading to the CFP semifinals for the third time in four years.
Notre Dame 45, Stanford 7