Up this week in our Notre Dame football opponent previews is Stanford. I promise that I have made no phantom whistle jokes or any snide remarks about David Shaw.
…that will come later.
Previous Opponent Previews:
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Spoiler alert: Stanford loves running the damn ball.
This year will be rather interesting as Stanford lost all their starting running backs, including Tyler Gaffney who rushed for 1,750 yards, and only return one starting lineman, LT Andrus Peat.
The Cardinal does, however, have this kid named Barry Sanders that has showed some sparks on limited carries and special teams.
And yes, his father is exactly who you think he is.
The line also isn’t in as bad of shape as the returning starts situation makes it appear. Stanford is incredibly deep and should be able to gel together by the time they visit South Bend in October.
Starting QB Kevin Hogan returns, along with his receiving corps. While Standford isn’t known for their passing prowess, they are incredibly efficient, as Hogan notched a completion rate of 61%.
The Stanford machine will likely see a bit of regression this year. I seriously doubt it will be major though unless either Sanders doesn’t quite live up to expectations or Stanford’s young and talented offensive line doesn’t quite gel as expected.
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An offensive philosophy of time-bleeding, smash-mouth football only really works if you have the stout defense to back it up. Make no mistake, Stanford has it.
They also are returning practically everything that made it that way too.
For the Cardinal, everything starts up front as their rushing defense is superb. They were one of the few teams that managed to slow down Oregon’s hyper-speed running game who only managed to gain 62 rushing yards against them.
Notre Dame experienced quite a bit of trouble last year against their defensive unit too, gaining only 64 rushing yards and 199 passing yards en route to a 27-20 loss.
For Stanford to have any shot at yet another Rose Bowl this will be the unit that will have to anchor them
What to Expect
Expect Brian Kelly to throw many different looks to spread Stanford out. While the D-line of Stanford will be incredibly strong, but the LB corps took some serious losses and one returning starter fills the “Cat” or rushing role in the 3-4.
That means Kelly will attack the edges. With Golson back, this will allow ND to employ read options that, when run properly, should take one lineman out of the play immediately. That will allow the offense to attack the less talented and inexperienced edges of the defense.
On the defensive side of the ball, Brian VanGorder will likely be facing his toughest test to date. Much like the Syracuse game the week prior, the Irish must stop the run in order to have success.
If they fail, the Irish will find themselves a chewed-up clock in which to work with. That will likely force ND to deviate from the game plan and be forced to find explosive plays through the air and the last thing ND needs is this D-line coming after Golson with their ears pinned back.
I expect this to be one of the biggest tests for the Irish and should be one of the better games to watch of the season.
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