Approximately twenty four hours from now the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame have an opportunity to earn the distinction of having one of the most brilliant turnaround seasons ever. One team stands in the way, and that team is waiting to absolutely wreck that distinction, and the payoff that comes with it. A bowl appearance on New Years Day.
What Can We Expect From The Cardinal Offense
Let’s just say that if the Cardinal Heisman candidate Bryce Love doesn’t have a big day, nor will their offense. They rely heavily on the shifty yet strong back that is second in the nation in rushing, and 7th in touchdowns, with 16. However, Love has had his share of injury issues this season, and without him they simply are not the same offense as a whole. Behind Love is Cameron Scarlett, and although he’s not shabby at all, he doesn’t fill the big shoes of their Heisman candidate. As for the receiving corps for the Cardinal, there’s really no big play receivers that I’d consider, weapons.
KJ Costello will be under center, and he’s been a step up from Keller Chryst. Throwing for nearly a thousand yards, and completing 60% of his passes, he’s not to be taken lightly. His primary targets have been Smith, Whiteside, and Irwin. If Costello is given enough time, he’ll be given the opportunity to pick us apart with this trio, and a couple others.
All in all, Stanford will need to bring a healthy Love, an accurate and patient Costello, and a stingy defense to put up a fight. I expect that to happen. Speaking of the defense.
What To Expect From The Cardinal Defense
Anchored by the play of Harrison Phillips (DL), Justin Reid (S), and Bobby Okereke (LB), Stanford is a solid defense. They are not, however, as tough as they’ve been in the past. I expect our Irish to take advantage of being one of the best offensive lines in college football to dominate up front. The duo of Phillips and Okereke will be responsible for corralling Josh Adams most of the day. I expect their defense to be prepared for a run heavy offense that we will likely bring to Palo Alto tomorrow night. Slow the play of these three players that will look to spoil our party on New Years, and the Irish should be able to control the clock and win comfortably.
Make no mistake, this Stanford team will be up for a physical game. They will bring their best game, and be a challenge for the Irish, which will keep this game close. Their defense is still a physical, hard nosed unit that will take some time to crack, but Notre Dame has the personnel to do just that.
It All Comes Down To Which Teams Show Up
As with every game, every week, the key to victory is having played with focus and consistency…..at a high level. Will the Irish shine under the lights tomorrow night the way they did against USC and Michigan St.? If so, they’ll win in the exact same fashion. I, however, do not expect this to be the case. Notre Dame has been hungover since Wake Forest, and sometimes it takes some time to get out of that funk. If the Irish come in even the least bit sluggish, or tight, against this Cardinal team, it’s going to be a long night. We need a healthy Josh Adams to set the tone early. A loose and confident Brandon Wimbush to make them afraid of his legs, and his arm, early. And, a receiving corps that takes advantage of their athleticism and speed (calling Mr. Stepherson).
On the other side of the ball, it is paramount that we bottle up Bryce Love. A close second of importance is our ability to make Costello very uncomfortable. Yes, we have the personnel to do those two things, but what defense will show up. If it’s the one we saw against Wake Forest, once again, it will be a long night. We all know the personnel I speak of by name, because each week there seems to be yet another name that had a fantastic game. It’s time they put it all together and played like we know they’re capable of, and this just may be the best opportunity to do so. Away, primetime, under the lights, in nice weather, with no distractions, and having everything to play for.
Time to hone the axes and chop some trees.