Week 7 - Stanford at Notre Dame
Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor
Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor
Posted Oct 10, 2012

Week 7 Fearless Predictions & Game Preview - Stanford at Notre Dame

Stanford (4-1) at Notre Dame (5-0) Oct. 13, 3:30, NBC

Here's The Deal: With each passing week, Notre Dame looks more and more like a genuine contender for a BCS bowl game.

The Irish have been one of the biggest surprises of the first half of the season, methodically clearing each challenge in a schedule that was considered to be among the nation's prickliest before the year began. Yet, having already passed tests against Michigan State and Michigan, they're ranked No. 7 nationally and off to their best start since 2002. Even better, Notre Dame might be peaking if Saturday night's performance is any indication. Okay, Miami isn't the Miami of old, but it did arrive in Chicago averaging 40 points during a three-game winning streak. However, the Hurricanes left as no more than a tropical storm, failing to reach the end zone in a 41-3 rout.

Stanford is ranked as well, moving up a tick to No. 17 in the AP poll, but it didn't come without a whole lot of heavy lifting. The Cardinal showed a ton of heart and determination, overcoming a 14-point deficit in the final quarter to get past Arizona in overtime. Although it's probably not the team many thought it was after upsetting USC on Sept. 15, it remains a very talented program that's going to have a say in the Pac-12 North race. After frontloading the schedule with games on the Farm, Stanford begins a rugged stretch that'll take it outside of Palo Alto for five of the final seven games.

Why Stanford Might Win: If you're going to put a dent in the Cardinal D, you better be able to go up top with consistency. That is not a strength of this Notre Dame team.

The Irish have had issues throwing the ball, ranking 83rd nationally as Brian Kelly has attempted to maximize the talents of the raw Everett Golson and the limited Tommy Rees. The results have been middling, with just three touchdown passes being thrown in the first five games. Oh, and don't assume that ND has turned the corner because it hammered Miami. That had as much to do with an overmatched ‘Canes defense as anything else. Stanford is going to present a significantly tougher challenge, especially in the front seven. Navigating running lanes will mean solving the nation's sixth-ranked run defense, a unit allowing just 2.7 yards a carry. Those holes that Cierre Wood and George Atkinson enjoyed last Saturday night will close in a hurry, as linebackers Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas and safeties Jordan Richards and Usua Amanam press up, daring Golson to throw the ball.

Why Notre Dame Might Win: The Irish will have problems extending drives, but it could be worse … it could be Stanford.

As tough and physical as the Cardinal D has been this season, Notre Dame has been better. In fact, the Irish have astonishingly yielded just four field goals over the last three games and 39 points all season. The front seven, led by LB Manti Te'o, DE Stephon Tuitt and NG Louis Nix III, has essentially become an immovable object that's helped gloss over one-time concerns in the secondary. Stanford has only played intermittently well on offense, with last week's outburst at the expense of a feeble Arizona defense being an exception. The Irish should be able to key on RB Stepfan Taylor, forcing QB Josh Nunes into tough-to-navigate third-and-long situations. The junior has been a microcosm for the Cardinal offense, making far more mistakes than downfield plays that stretch a defense out.

What To Watch Out For: So, what was Nunes' performance in last week's comeback victory, an anomaly or the start of something big?

Nunes is coming off his best game of 2012, rallying his team with 365 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers. He looked like a completely different player than the one that too often appeared lost in September. However, he was also facing Arizona, one of the Pac-12's worst defenses. Nunes must now show that he can go on the road and complete passes to tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo in the face of one of the nation's premier defenses. A one-dimensional offense comprised of a steady diet of Taylor between the tackles just isn't going to cut it this weekend in South Bend.

What Will Happen: The defenses and running games will be on full display, as Notre Dame and Stanford battle it out in an old-fashioned knock-down, drag-out brawl.

In many ways, these are two similar teams that'll be descending upon South Bend for one of the games of Week 7. Both want to establish the run, are surly in the defensive front seven and have question marks behind center. Mirror images, with the exception that the host has been more consistent on D. The Irish and the Cardinal will slug it out for all 60 minutes, more if it's required to determine a winner. Although neither team is going to break through on offense, Nunes will be put in more situations to make things happen on third down in his own territory. And with those chances, he'll make a mistake or two that tips a close game in Notre Dame's favor. The Irish will survive to remain unbeaten, but it'll need all four quarters—and another great defensive effort—to get it done.

CFN Prediction: Notre Dame 20 … Stanford 16
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Notre Dame -8 O/U: 45
Must Watch Rating (5 – Argo, 1 – Pitch Perfect): 4