Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Stanford Cardinal Pick 11/30/19
Date/Time: Saturday, November 30th, 4:00 PM
Where: Stanford Stadium, Stanford, CA
Point Spread: ND -14/STAN +14 (SportBet - Best Parlay Odds Online! - 2 Teamers = 2.74/1)
Over/Under Total: 53
In the final full weekend of the college football season, two programs that have had very different 2019s meet in California when the Stanford Cardinal hosts the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Stanford Stadium. Notre Dame leads the all-time series 20-13, which includes a 38-17 win in South Bend a year ago.
Stanford entered this season ranked in the top 25 and considered a candidate to compete for the Pac-12 North championship. Instead, they started with losses in three of their first four games and currently sit with a 4-7 record and out of bowl contention for what will be the first time in ten years. They have the worst record in their conference and now limp into the final game of the year with three straight losses, including last weeks’ defeat against interstate rival Cal.
MILLIS AND COSTELLO
It has been an offensive struggle throughout the year for the Cardinal, currently ranking 101st in yards per game, 123rd in rushing, and 110th in scoring. Starting quarterback K.J. Costello is currently questionable with a thumb injury, which would again move sophomore David Millis into the lead role. Millis has done well in Costello’s absence and on the season has more yards along with a better passing percentage and touchdown-to-interception ration than his quarterback counterpart.
As much offensive difficulty as the Cardinal has had, at least they look somewhat positively on the passing game, which ranks 41st in the country. Wide receiver Michal Wilson leads the team in yards with 513 and has at least five catches or a touchdown in eight of ten games played this season. Connor Washington has the most receptions with 51 and was coming off the best game of career before getting carted off the field last week against California, and his status for Saturday remains in doubt. This will likely lead to more opportunities for freshman Simi Fehoko, who leads the team with six touchdown receptions and has come on strong of late, scoring five of those in the past four games.
RUNNING ON EMPTY
Even with once Heisman hopeful Bryce Love last season, the Cardinal still finished 2018 ranked 123rd in rushing yards per game, and this year find themselves with the same ranking. Senior Cameron Scarlett is the clear leader of the backfield, with five of the teams’ six rushing touchdowns on the season and putting up 766 yards on the ground. Unfortunately, he is the lone wolf in the Cardinal forest, with Austin Jones the only other player to score a rushing touchdown, which was way back on September 14th. The Irish rank 76th against the run, though they had allowed just one player to go over 100 yards in a game over their past nine contests, including holding AJ Dillon to only 56 yards a week ago.
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With last weeks’ 40-7 cakewalk win against the Boston College Eagles, the Irish improved their record to 9-2 on the season. A victory against Stanford would give them double-digit wins for the fourth time in five seasons. As good as that sounds this year will mostly be remembered for what could have been if they could ever win on the road against ranked teams after dropping games against Georgia and Michigan. They currently sit at 15th in the polls, which unfortunately leaves them on the outside looking in on getting a New Year’s Six bowl berth, and most projections have them set up to play in the Camping World Bowl against a Big-12 opponent at noon on December 28th.
PASSING TO SUCCESS
Against Boston College, the Notre Dame passing game was again focused on Book’s three main targets, Chase Claypool, Cole Kmet, and Chris Finke. All three had seven receptions, a touchdown, and at least 60 yards receiving apiece. With a Stanford defense awaiting them that ranks 118th against the pass and 92nd in total yards allowed per game, all three should find ample opportunity to improve on their stats in the final matchup of the regular season. This game will be the last chance before bowl season for Claypool to really show off his talent, and with six touchdowns over the past three weeks and a season with 828 receiving yards and ten total scores could have him poised to be picked in the first round next year.
Quarterback Ian Book continues a recent scoring streak, throwing for three touchdowns against Boston College and has tossed twelve over their past three games. Book is now tied for third in Irish history in touchdown passes in a season and needs just three more to tie Brady Quinn for second all-time. With his three primary targets all playing at a high level, he will need to continue that success as the Irish running game sluggishly plods its ways to modest at best numbers.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
After rushing for over 100 yards in three straight games against Virginia, Bowling Green, and USC, Tony Jones Jr. has hit a rut thanks in large part to injury, and with his struggles, so have gone the Irish rushing game issues. Jones Jr. is still the clear focal point of the backfield, with C’Bo Flemister his primary backup. Both will hope to end the season with on a positive note after closing the final months with consistency issues and watching as their quarterback acts as their only real threat on the ground.
THE FINAL DECISION
Stanford has won the last five games in California against the Irish, but the problem for the Cardinal is that this year, they find themselves limping to the end of their season. With no postseason in sight and a clear personnel disadvantage, I can not see them covering this matchup. They have struggled of late as underdogs, winning just one of their last nine games when getting points, and simply don’t have the defensive prowess to contend with the Notre Dame offense for a full 60 minutes. This sets up the Irish for a high scoring affair, and with them having won their last 29 games in a row when scoring over 20 points, I believe Notre Dame will continue that streak on Saturday and end their regular season with a win and cover at Stanford Stadium.
Mike’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Notre Dame -14. Make the Fighting Irish a +6 underdog by inserting them into a massive 20 point college football teaser found at 5Dimes!