Counting the Rings: Are We Not Seeing the Forest for the Tree?

Likely, there were one or four more “tree” references I could have forced into that title, but so what? I’m a rockstar. I got the rock moves. And we got Stanford. The Cardinal. The Tree.

Again, dating myself, but not in the Dillon Hall sense of the word, the first home loss I ever experienced, in that glorious first season in South Bend, a season of The Golden Boy and Rocket’s run, was to The Cardinal. It was awful. They weren’t ranked. We were ranked NUMBER FUC*ING ONE IN THE NATION. The senior class hadn’t experienced a home loss. And there it was: 36-31. Ugh. IT WAS PARENTS’ WEEKEND FOR GAWD’S SAKE.

The purpose of my effort today, is to step back from The Stanford that has plagued us, lo these many years, and dig into The Stanford of 2012, and how The Irish compare. The Cardinal has OWNED us, crushing us and benefitting from our crappy play. It ends here. This Saturday shall be our Midway, our 73 Easting. So, let’s strip off the bark, and get into some dendrology:

credit: @stogiesnbeer

Offense: Without Luck, Stanford has no chance. Andrew Luck was arguably the best quarterback The Irish faced in the last few years and without him, The Cardinal now rank 62nd among FBS schools in passing yards. Their scoring offense is ranked a middling 49th and their scoring defense is ranked similarly at 42nd. Compare this to a Notre Dame team ranked 62nd in scoring offense, but NUMERO DOS in points allowed, and you can begin to develop the picture of where this one is going. Everett “Golson Style” Golson and Stanford’s QB, Josh Nunes, have stunningly simmilar QB ratings (126.5 v. 126.1), but ND’s backfield is decidedly more diverse. Whereas The Cardinal have one 100+ yard runner, Stepfan Young (555), Notre Dame has FOUR: GAIII (269), Riddick (263), Wood (213) and McDaniel (114). Message to Manti: “Stop Stepfan and you stop Stanford.” Message to The Cardinal: Good luck, bitches. When (then) #8 Stanford took on, and lost, LOST, to Washington (yep, them), they managed a meager 235 combined total yards and 13 points. Sure, they rebounded with 617 total yards and 51 points the next week, but that was against Arizona, to whom they surrendered 48 points. Which leads us to my next point:

Defense: The last Irish defense this good was The Irish Brigade and I think even Fr. Bill Corby, C.S.C., would be impressed by the tenacity of Manti and the Boys. Simply put, The Cardinal’s O-Line doesn’t have it in them and their rushing and passing attacks don’t seem to be made, six games into the season, to test a defense that has yet to surrender a rushing touchdown and is giving up a lousy 7.9 points per game, a number second only to Ala-freaking-bama, baby. When you look at Miami’s gaudy point totals prior to last Saturday, you kind of get an idea of just how nasty The Irish D is. Not can be, IS. AND THEY’RE ONLY GETTING BETTER. Including Manti, who, to quote Coach Kelly at today’s presser, “keeps pushing that bar.” Stanford’s D held U$C to 14 points, sure, but they gave up 48 points to Arizona and 17 to San Jose State. And 13 to Duke. There’s no question: MANTI TE’O IS GETTING BETTER, STANFORD!!!!! YOU. ARE. DOOMED. Unless Stanford’s giant tight-ends get loose and crazy. But we’ve got a pass rush that’s pretty good, so…

The Intangibles: Remember where this started? Number One Notre Dame took on unranked Stanford, at Notre Dame, and The Irish blew it. Here’s why I’m VERY optimistic about Saturday, 2012: no sacks in 85 consecutive throws and Golson was GREAT against Miami. Did you see a young man grow up? Did you see a teaching moment when Tommy trotted out and then Everett got the ball? Did you see a kid who got overwhelmed against Michigan handle the bright lights of Soldier Field with aplomb? You did. This year is special. Here’s the highlights from last week. Tell me if you don’t see IT:

Yeah, you do.

(Author’s note: all stats credit

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