Stanford Cardinal at Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Time: 12:30 PM PT, 3:30 PM ET
Online: NBC.com stream
Radio stream: TuneIn
There’s no question that Stanford has the best defense in college football. It’s not even close. The Cardinal are currently ranking top 5 in all S&P categories, and have allowed only 10% of their FBS opponent drives to reach Stanford’s 30 yard line on defense. Stanford allowed only 4.5 yards per pass attempt and 116 yards per game to Washington and USC. Their 147.7 S&P+ is the highest since the 2012 Alabama Crimson Tide.
It’s what makes their matchup with Notre Dame so compelling. The Irish offense is a very competent unit that knows how to move the football. They are also an exceptional 3rd down offense (12th) and have an impressive success rate of 51% Of course, USC has a good looking offense if you discount the Stanford game, so you can expect the Irish to have their trouble moving the ball in South Bend.
The Stanford defense is historically good. The Stanford offense is incompetent.
Despite having pretty good field position relative to their opponents (their opponents have been backed up almost every time with the ball, and the Cardinal are getting short fields as a result), Stanford has taken it down to the wire in two Pac-12 games. The Cardinal rank 82nd in IsoPPP (measuring explosiveness), 86th in rushing S&P, and 18th in passing S&P. Those are confusing stats; you’d expect the Cardinal to be pretty decently explosive if they’re moving the football pretty well when passing, right? The Cardinal have run only 256 offensive plays thanks in part to nine offensive turnovers and seven fumbles lost (The Irish have forced 10+ turnovers so far this season). And of course the red zone: Stanford has punched in the football 8 times in 19 tries and only gotten four field goals out of the other 11 attempts.
That doesn’t bode well for Saturday. Notre Dame isn’t an outstanding defense, but they do know how to keep their opponents in front of them and force teams to move the football to score. The Cardinal will have to hope their defense can generate some turnovers and good field position and give them some short field to work with. It’s hard to see them winning without a lot of defensive assistance. Thankfully, this defense is plenty game.