2011 Prediction & Game Story
Week 13, Notre Dame at Stanford
Pac-12 Fearless Predictions &
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Nov. 26 at Stanford 28 … Notre Dame 14
CFN Analysis: It took too long to put the Irish away – partly because of 11 penalties and two turnovers - but the Cardinal was always in control. Andrew Luck was brilliant and came up with four touchdown passes, but he also threw a bad pick. Was it enough to push him into the Heisman front-runner spot? Probably not, but it only added to his great career. … Stephfan Taylor ran behind a line that dominated throughout. The Irish defensive line didn’t generate enough pressure on Luck, and Taylor had few problems finding holes to move through. … The Cardinal defense was better than the offense. Notre Dame didn’t do anything to move the ball on a consistent basis and did nothing against the run. … The Cardinal will almost certainly finish in the BCS top four and get an automatic BCS spot. At the very least, it should get into the Fiesta Bowl.
Just when it seemed like the Notre Dame season couldn’t be more inconsistent, here comes the Stanford game. In a role reversal, the Irish got chance after chance after chance to take control of the game, helped by two takeaways, and the offense didn’t come through. … Tommy Rees took a major step back when he should be hitting his stride. He only completed 6-of-13 passes for 60 yards and a pick. … The ten penalties and three turnovers were way too sloppy. … Andrew Hendrix provided a spark with his legs as well as his arm – completing 11-of-24 passes for 192 yards and a score with a pick, and running 12 times for 20 yards – and now he’s in the mix to possibly start the bowl game.
(AP) STANFORD, Calif. -- Andrew Luck walked back into the overcrowded home locker room at Stanford Stadium, greeted by hugs and handshakes and serenaded with a chant that suited him just perfectly.
"Macho, Macho man!" teammates bellowed, singing the lyrics to the Village People's famous song. "I want to be a Macho man!"
Only one has earned that title on The Farm.
Luck set the school record for the most career touchdown passes and eclipsed his own single-season mark, throwing for 233 yards and four scores to lead Stanford (No. 6 BCS, No. 4 AP) past No. 22 Notre Dame 28-14 in his home finale Saturday night.
Luck topped John Elway's record of 77 touchdown passes and helped the Cardinal (11-1) build a 21-0 halftime lead. He has thrown for 80 touchdowns in three years -- while it took Elway all four -- and 35 this season.
"There's no player in America like Andrew Luck," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "Forget about the stats. Forget about the comparisons of other guys. It doesn't matter."
Luck of the Irish? Forget it.
Luck is on Stanford's side.
The victory likely vaulted the Cardinal into consideration for an at-large BCS bowl bid for the second straight year -- with the Fiesta Bowl among the leading possible destinations -- but they will not play for a major championship this season. The lone loss to Oregon put the Ducks in the Pac-12 title game out of the North Division and crushed Stanford's dreams of a national title.
"I think one loss, that's great," said Luck, who turned down a chance to be the NFL draft's top pick this year. "We've been on a 23-2 run for a while, I think it's pretty impressive. We put ourselves in position to be in a good bowl game, and that's what we wanted to do."
A sloppy second half almost took everything else Stanford had worked for this season.
Kelly benched Rees in favor of Hendrix to start the third quarter, and the move pumped some life into a stagnant Irish offense. Notre Dame took advantage of pass interference and roughing the passer penalties for its first score.
Hendrix threw a 6-yard TD to Michael Floyd to slice Stanford's lead to 21-7 halfway through the third quarter. Floyd finished with 95 catches on the year, breaking the single-season mark of 93 set by Golden Tate in 2009.
The Irish were driving for another score when Hendrix overthrew a receiver; the ball was tipped and intercepted by Michael Thomas. When Notre Dame regained possession, Hendrix was sacked by A.J. Tarpley for a 13-yard loss that sent another drive tumbling.
"Consistency is the one thing I have struggled with the most," said Hendrix, who completed 11 of 24 passes.
Only room for one quarterback to steal the show.
Luck quickly connected with Coby Fleener for a 55-yard TD pass to extend Stanford's lead to 28-7 with 5:40 remaining to put the game out of reach. Fleener also caught a 28-yard TD in the first half that gave Luck every major school touchdown record.
Stanford's Senior Day belonged to the redshirt junior.
Luck lobbed a fade to the short corner of the end zone to complete a 3-yard score to Levine Toilolo, giving Stanford a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Even he had to hold back a smile running to the sideline to a swarm of well-wishes from teammates for the records-tying toss.
But Luck lost his rhythm when a back-side blitzer closed the pocket, and he tossed a short pass that Darius Fleming intercepted and returned 35 yards. Notre Dame took over at the Stanford 10 after a 15-yard penalty on Fleener for a horse collar.
Stanford stifled the Irish on consecutive plays and forced a 20-yard field goal that David Ruffer missed wide right.
Luck followed with a 28-yard TD pass to Fleener. The tight end dragged cornerback Robert Blanton the final 10 yards into the end zone, sealing Luck's marks in the school record book.
"I think it's something I'll be able to tell my kids and grandkids when I'm watching Andrew on TV someday," Fleener said. "He's got my Heisman vote."
Notre Dame (8-3) at Stanford (10-1) Nov. 26, 8:00, ABC
Here’s The Deal … By the time this game kicks off, Stanford will have far more clarity on its postseason ceiling.
The Cardinal is still alive in the Pac-12 North, but will need a Civil War loss from Oregon earlier in the day to cop the division. It’s a longshot, considering the state of Oregon State these days, but it’s still a reason to scoreboard watch during the pregame. Stanford lost control of its own destiny with a Nov. 12 loss to the Ducks, before rebounding last Saturday with a win over Cal in the Big Game. A far more realistic goal for the sixth-ranked Cardinal will be to parlay an 11th victory this weekend into a second straight at-large BCS bowl berth.
Notre Dame probably played its way out of BCS bowl eligibility with an 0-2 start, and a crushing loss at the hands of USC on Oct. 22. And while the Irish have rallied for four consecutive wins since, none of its victims, Navy, Wake Forest, Maryland or Boston College, is going to boost a school’s strength of schedule. Brian Kelly’s second team in South Bend has just one true quality win all year, the Week 3 defeat of Michigan State. In other words, a trip to the Farm affords ND the opportunity to make a much-needed statement and national splash before beginning its postseason preparations.
Why Notre Dame Might Win: Coordinator Bob Diaco’s defense is quietly delivering an outstanding year in South Bend. Since the 0-2 start, the unit has gradually improved, making it especially tough for opponents to run the ball. LB Manti Te’o and S Harrison Smith have been the tone-setters, inching up closer to the line in order to seal off running lanes. Stanford is at its most potent when it’s balanced, which will be a little tougher to achieve this week.
On offense, Notre Dame will get a good look at a Cardinal defense that’s been exposed in the last few games. In fact, over the last four weeks, it’s given up nine touchdown passes while picking off just one. This will be a good spot for QB Tommy Rees to catch a tailwind by maximizing the talents of TE Tyler Eifert and WR Michael Floyd. Floyd is the type of player who’s capable of taking a game over when his battery mate is cooperating.
Why Stanford Might Win: Sure, the Irish defense has played sound football this season, but the Cardinal attack isn’t Navy, Wake Forest, Maryland or Boston College. Not even close. In fact, Stanford ranks in the top 10 nationally in total and scoring offense at 485 yards and 45 a game, respectively. QB Andrew Luck directs a crisp pro-style offense that can wear down the opposition on the ground or through the air with help from the tight ends. And although the quarterback has been hurt by injuries to WR Chris Owusu and TE Zach Ertz, he’s still in the middle of the Heisman mix, with a chance to move closer to New York City in front of a national TV audience. While more pliable of late, the Cardinal D still ranks No. 5 in the country against the run, and will be facing a shorthanded Notre Dame ground game. The Irish still have 1,000-yard rusher Cierre Wood, but were most potent when before injured 230-pound Jonas Gray was providing breathers and a change-of-pace.
What To Watch Out For: The Cardinal defense is a frenetic crew that’ll give up yards, but compensate with a bunch of stops behind the line. The nation’s eighth-ranked sack unit is led by a frisky front seven that includes linemen Matt Masifilo and Ben Gardner, and linebackers Chase Thomas, Trent Murphy and Jarek Lancaster. However, standing in front of them will be LT Zack Martin and one of the best fortresses in the game this season.
Notre Dame has yielded just eight sacks in 11 weeks, providing Rees the time he needs to check down his receivers. If Stanford is unable to generate its usual heat, the secondary will have a difficult time holding up in coverage. An undisturbed Rees gives the Irish its best chance to get off the Farm with a much-needed upset.
What Will Happen: Luck and Stanford failed in their first attempt to impress a larger than normal audience. They won’t this time. Notre Dame doesn’t harbor the speed of Oregon, which really did in the Cardinal in primetime two weeks back. In fact, it’s not even close. Now, the Irish can certainly compete well beyond halftime in this matchup, using the running game, short passes and Te’o’s defense to remain within arm’s length. However, they’ll lack the consistency in the passing game to pull ahead in the final 20 minutes.
Stanford will remain one step ahead throughout, putting the game away in the final quarter on a Coby Fleener touchdown grab. Luck won’t win the Heisman with his performance, but he’ll do just enough to remain in the thick of the discussions heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
CFN Prediction: Stanford 31 … Notre Dame 21
Click For Latest Line From ATS: Stanford -6.5 O/U: 58
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