One of the two top-10 showdowns in college football this weekend features the no. 8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish hosting the no. 7 Stanford Cardinal. The Cardinal have won seven of the last nine games in this rivalry, including a 38-20 win last season. However, the Irish are considered 5-point favorites on Saturday night with an over/under of 52.5 points.
Stanford is perhaps a little fortunate to still be undefeated. They looked dead in the water against Oregon last week until they forced a turnover that enabled them to tie the game and send it to overtime. Of course, the Cardinal won in overtime 38-31 to go to 4-0 on the season. Prior to that, Stanford was one of the most impressive teams in the country, knocking off both San Diego State and USC, two teams that beat them last season.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame has been a little less impressive early in the year. Obviously, their season-opening win against Michigan made headlines. But the Irish were underwhelming in single-digit wins against Ball State and Vanderbilt. Head coach Brian Kelly surprised some with a quarterback change against Wake Forest last week, a move that appears to have paid off. Kelly dropped the athletic Brandon Wimbush, who has struggled to throw the ball in his career, with pocket passer Ian Book, who promptly led the Irish to a 56-27 win.
But Can You Do it Again?
Book was outstanding last week against a porous Wake Forest secondary, but the question of whether he can repeat that kind of performance against a top-10 team has to be asked. If you haven’t heard, Wake Forest fired their defensive coordinator after that game, so it’s not as if the Demon Deacons provided much resistance against a quarterback who still has barely over 100 career pass attempts.
To be fair, the Stanford defense didn’t fare so well last week against Oregon. However, Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert is a possible Heisman candidate, so it’s not a surprise he threw for over 300 yards against the Cardinal. Prior to that game, Stanford had given up 23 points total on the season, so they figure to provide a stiff challenge for Book and the Notre Dame offense.
Where’s the Love?
Missing in Stanford’s 4-0 start has been presumed Heisman finalist Bryce Love. He sat out the teams’ win over UC-Davis a couple weeks ago due to injury and hasn’t quite looked like himself early in the year. In three games, Love is averaging a modest 4.3 yards per carry with just two touchdowns.
Fortunately for Stanford, they’ve been able to adjust on the fly. Quarterback K.J. Costello has been brilliant early in the year and not shy about throwing the ball deep. Costello has 10 touchdown passes, with seven of them going to J.J. Arcega–Whiteside, who’s been an absolute menace for opposing defenses. Defensively, Notre Dame has played well this year, but they haven’t played a team with Stanford’s fire power (not even Michigan), especially if they can get Love going.
Honestly, Stanford is probably the better team in this game. Book is still unproven while the Cardinal has already proved itself on both sides of the ball this year. Keep in mind that Stanford has won two of their last four games in Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish only won one of those two games by more than a field goal. With the Cardinal getting points, bet on Stanford +5 to beat the spread and perhaps beat Notre Dame on Saturday night.