Posted by Tom Fornelli
STANFORD WILL WIN IF: One of the most prolific offense in the Pac-12 will be facing a Notre Dame defense that has been stout against the run this season, allowing only 142.6 yards rushing per game and 8 rushing touchdowns on the season. This despite the fact that Notre Dame has faced option teams like Air Force and Navy this season. Of course, the service academies don't have quite the same level of talent that Stanford has on its offense, and they definitely don't have a quarterback like Andrew Luck. In his career against Notre Dame, Luck hasn't had eye-popping numbers, completing 33 of 52 passes for 436 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions in two previous games. That being said, Stanford is still 2-0 in both of those games and have done so by rushing for 223 yards per game in those contests. A formula that Stanford would be wise to follow again this Saturday, with some Luck sprinkled in for good measure.
NOTRE DAME WILL WIN IF: This Stanford offense is too powerful to keep off the scoreboard very often, so it may be up to the Irish offense to outscore the Cardinal on the road when it comes down to it. Which is something this Notre Dame offense is capable of as long as it doesn't turn the ball over. As we saw in the Stanford loss against Oregon, this is a defense that can be beaten if you spread it out and try and beat it with speed. Notre Dame doesn't have nearly the same amount of speed on offense that Oregon does, but it can spread the Stanford defense out. Without Jonas Gray the Irish won't be able to try and grind the Cardinal defense down, but it can get the same type of effect utilizing a short passing game, while trying to hit Michael Floyd for a big play once in a while. If the Irish offense can take care of the football and give its defense time to rest on the sideline during this game, then it has a chance to pull off the upset.
X-FACTOR: Notre Dame's front seven. This will be the toughest test that Notre Dame's defense has faced this season, as the Stanford offense is built around its running game, but also has Andrew Luck who can tear your secondary apart. Which means the impetus will be on the defensive line and linebackers to not only stop the run, but to also get pressure on Andrew Luck. If the Cardinal are able to run the ball consistently and therefore give Luck all the time in the world on play-action, then the Irish aren't going to have much of a chance in this contest.