With Thanksgiving and Black Friday over, Gameday for the Irish and Cardinal is finally here. Most betting experts and fans have the Cardinal as the overwhelming favorite with the game being at home in Palo Alto this evening, but make no mistake about it, the road team has a shot at winning this ballgame.
Of course, this will be far from a cakewalk for the Irish. To put it bluntly, Stanford’s offense is loaded. They have scored at least 30 points in each game this season, with their low point coming against Oregon At times, their offense both through the air and against the path has looked unstoppable.
Stanford’s offense begins and ends with Andrew Luck, who is the favorite to win the Heisman trophy and a lock to be the first overall pick in next year’s NFL Draft. Luck will be looking to improve his credentials for that award tonight on national television. Remember Carson Palmer’s effort of a few years back? The same could happen with Luck tonight, but lets hope not for the sake of the Irish.
Luck has plenty of weapons to chose from and has spread the ball around equally this season. Eight different Cardinal players have doubt digit totals in catches in 2011. Griff Whalen is the team’s leading pass catcher with 47 grabs for 652 yards and four touchdowns. Coby Fleenen is a monster in the red zone with eight scores on the year.
The Cardinal feature a lethal running attack as well. Stepfan Taylor is their leading rusher with 1,035 rush yards on 187 carries. Taylor has also seen the end zone eight times. Four other Stanford players have at least 100 yards on the ground. Tyler Gaffney has 415 rush yards to go along with seven TD’s. Anthony Wilkerson, Jeremy Stewart and Luck have at least 100+ yards on the ground as well.
One of the main reasons why I think the Irish have a legit shot in this game tonight is because of Stanford’s defense. The unit gave Notre Dame all sorts of problems last year, but the Cardinal aren’t as good defensively this year as they were previous.
The past two weeks have been a struggle for the Cardinal D. In the Oregon game, the unit looked extremely slow with the Ducks scoring at will on them. In last week’s game against Cal, Stanford allowed 280 yards through the air against a less than stellar Bears air attack.
Stanford will have their work cut out for them trying to guard Michael Floyd. Then again, most team’s have against Notre Dame’s all-time leading receiver. With Jonas Gray out for the season, either one of George Atkinson III or Cam McDaniel will have to step up in order to give starter Cierre Wood some necessary breathers in the run game.
If the Irish want a chance at winning their ninth game of the season and improve their bowl chances at a very good bowl, they must get off to a fast start, a key that is important in every road game. Stanford’s stadium doesn’t hold a lot of fans, but it can get loud with the best of them across the country.
If the Irish get off to a good start, Tommy Rees protects the football and the defense can play like it has the last couple of weeks, ND has a great chance at the upset and grabbing the signature win so far in the Brian Kelly Era.