After reaching the midway point in the 2016 college football season, it’s fair to say that Notre Dame has easily been the biggest disappointment of the year thus far. Stanford doesn’t lag the Irish by much on the “disappointment meter.”
Heading into Saturday’s game, Stanford is 3-2 on the year with a huge emphasis on the two losses after getting waxed in back to back weeks by Washington (44-6) and Washington State (42-16). This implies that as bad as Notre Dame has looked six games into the season, the Cardinal is very beatable. Consider the fact that Stanford’s version of Captain America (aka Christian McCaffrey) is not 100 percent while their secondary is suffering from injuries as well. (That secondary is ranked 95th in pass defense.)
Looking Back & Looking Ahead
Notre Dame’s previous six opponents (Texas, Nevada, Michigan State, Duke, Syracuse, and NC State) have a cumulative record of 15-16 with four of those wins attributed to victories over the Irish. None of these teams are currently ranked in the top 25.
Notre Dame’s upcoming six opponents (Stanford, Miami, Navy, Army, Virginia Tech, and USC) have a cumulative record of 21-8. Miami is currently ranked 16th, Navy cracked the polls at 25th (coming off a top 10 program defining victory against Houston), and Virginia Tech sits comfortably at 17th.
It’s difficult to be optimistic when looking ahead at the schedule as it currently stands. However, a win against Stanford going into a bye week could provide a unique springboard effect for Notre Dame moving forward. With the opportunity to build on a potential win this Saturday, rallying to a 7-5 record is realistic – projecting two victories against the military academies, splitting the Miami & Virginia Tech games, and finishing with a win against a Southern Cal team who is also desperately trying to avoid imploding.
A loss against a battered Stanford would throw this Notre Dame football team into a smoking hot tailspin going into the bye week. It is conceivable to think that this scenario leads to not only a bowl ineligible season, but perhaps Brian Kelly’s worst season as a head coach. Kelly’s worst record in one season came in 2004 during his first year at Central Michigan where they went 4-7. Pending a potential loss on Saturday, it’s difficult to muster the confidence to foresee more than 2 wins left on the schedule – projecting losses against Miami and Virginia Tech, splitting with the military academies, and a dumpster fire toss up finale with USC. This ultimately leads to either a 3-9 or 4-8 season.
An Essential Win
Stop me if you have heard this before, but Saturday’s matchup is pivotal for Notre Dame and remainder of the year as well as providing positive momentum heading into 2017. Years removed from this horrid season people will look back and say that this Saturday’s game with Stanford proved to be the point where the Irish got the bus turned around and headed in the right direction. Or, conversely, this was the game where the wheels fell off, leaving the team stranded with little to no confidence with the most difficult stretch of the schedule looming.
Cheers and go Irish!