Saturday Night South Bend

Campus Clash

(7) Stanford Cardinal at (8) Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Stanford: What a big-time win that was on Saturday in Eugene, Oregon against those Oregon Ducks. They looked lost and out of sync for the entire first half, but they kept fighting and fighting and won a huge divisional showdown on the road in a hostile environment. My biggest takeaway from that game was how focused they were and they didn’t overthink anything. What’s impressed me is how they’ve been able to win games without Bryce Love having a big game or taking over as he’s known to do. Instead, it was quarterback K.J. Costello carrying the team on his back when it mattered the most and he threw for 327 yards passing and three touchdown passes in the win on Saturday. What I like about this team is they play a traditional NFL offense. They don’t really run any trick plays and they move the football down the field on a consistent basis. Defensively, they remain one of the best units in college football and that has always been their strength. Right now, David Shaw’s team is sitting at 4-0 in the Pac-12 North and they make an interesting case to be a playoff team. They already have two wins over two teams ranked within the top 25 and they could win their division if everything else pans out in their favor. They’ve passed one road test already and they now have another one on Saturday evening against the rival Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame: They’re off to another fast start, but they’ve played sloppy at times and I haven’t been impressed so much, but a zero remains in the loss column. Their issue is they struggle to put teams away. I’ve really tried to sell myself on Brandon Wimbush, but he just doesn’t cut it for me. Ian Book needs to be the starting quarterback for the Irish moving forward. If you saw the tape of their game against Wake Forest, you see how much of a difference he made under center and the one thing I took away was how fluidly the offense was able to move the ball down the field. I loved what I saw from Ian. He can make all the throws, he sets his feet in the pocket, he can move within that pocket (which is always essential for a quarterback no matter the level) and with him on the field, you saw the speed of their offense come out. For years, Notre Dame has always had a consistent ground game and a good defense, the quarterback position has always been a question mark, but I now think that question has been answered. They will look to remain undefeated with a rival coming to town on Saturday night.

Stanford Player To Watch: Osiris St. Brown– J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has been on a tear so far this year. He’s a 6’2, 180-pound receiver that will go above and beyond to make a catch. He also gives Costello another consistent threat in the red zone to go up and grab the football out of mid-air.

Notre Dame Player To Watch: Dexter Williams– He’s expected to make his return to the team on Saturday after serving a four-game suspension according to Brian Kelly. He will be filling some big shoes at the running back position replacing Josh Adams who was their best player, but Dexter isn’t bad himself. Williams averaged 9.2 yards per carry for Notre Dame in a reserve role last season. Of his 39 carries in 2017, 17 went for a first down.

Final Analysis: Primetime games are always the best! Especially when it features two very historic programs facing each other. If you thought the crowd in Eugene was loud and electric, just imagine what it will be like in South Bend. It’s key for Costello to continue and play the football he’s played that has the Cardinal off to a quick start on the season. They will need to buckle down and try to keep Ian Book in the pocket and force him to beat them by throwing the ball (which he is capable of doing). Can Notre Dame play a complete game? The key for this game will be the offensive line of Notre Dame. This will be another physical front seven that they see.

Prediction: Notre Dame 23 Stanford 20