Stanford Cardinal vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Pick
Stanford Cardinal (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-0 SU, 2-2 ATS)
Date/Time: Saturday, September 29th, 7:30 PM
Where: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN
By: Mike Mann., NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: STAN +6 / ND -6
Over/Under Total: 51
Stanford heads east to take on Notre Dame for a Saturday night showdown in South Bend. The Irish lead the all time series 19-13, though it is the Cardinal that have had the upper hand of late having won the last three consecutive games and also going 6-2 over the last eight since Brian Kelly arrived in Indiana.
Coach Kelly decided not to wait any longer and made the decision before the Wake Forest game to start Ian Book at quarterback over accuracy troubled Brandon Wimbush. The decision turned out to be the right one as Book and the Notre Dame offense rolled over the Demon Deacons 56-27 last weekend. The sophomore signal caller threw two touchdown passes while also rushing for three more in what was just his second start ever for the Irish. He made many short succinct throws that opened up the rest of the offensive skill position players to showcase their talents as Wake simply had no answer for the new look Notre Dame game plan.
Book’s breakout wasn’t the only highlight of the day for the Notre Dame offense, as redshirt freshman Jafar Armstrong continued his strong play with 98 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns on just eight carries on the day. Despite losing star Josh Adams from a season ago to graduation and expected starter this year Dexter Williams to suspension, the Irish backfield has been able to hold its own through their first four games. The primary backs used have been Armstrong and Tony Jones Jr, though Avery Davis joined the fray against Wake and looked to be effective as well. Those three along with the threat of whoever is playing quarterback add an additional dimension to the Notre Dame offense that should continue to pay dividends throughout the rest of the season.
The way the Irish schedule is shaping up this week’s game against Stanford could very well be their biggest hurdle remaining. Florida State doesn’t seem so imposing anymore with issues all over, Virginia Tech just lost to Old Dominion as a 30 point favorite and USC remains unranked after a less than inspired start to their season. They will need to break their recent slump against the Cardinal, who come into this week with plenty of momentum after a shocking comeback win against Oregon.
Stanford trailed 24-7 at the half and 31-21 with less than five minutes left, but still managed to come away with a win in Eugene. Oregon had the game essentially in hand but rather than kneel to run out the clock they decided to run the ball, which of course led to a fumble and quick Stanford score to tie the game and send it into overtime where they would eventually get the win.
Star running back Bryce Love had another quality game with 89 yards and a touchdown against the Ducks. On the year he has done well enough, having put up 254 yards and two scores, but he has been slowed by an injury and his yards per carry sits at 4.3 after having averaged at least 7 per in each of the past three seasons. He has rushed for at least 125 yards in both of his last two games against Notre Dame and will hope for the same this year as it would be a much needed boost to a Cardinal rushing attack that ranks a paltry 120thin all of college football.
Love is far from alone on a Stanford offense that is also highlighted by quarterback KJ Costello and wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside. The junior Costello has thrown for 1,056 yards while completing 64% of his passes and a 10/3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. His favorite target has undoubtedly been Arcega-Whiteside, who has caught seven touchdowns while posting another team high 408 yards receiving. Thankfully for Costello there are plenty of other viable weapons available including receivers Kaden Smith and Trenton Irwin along with tight end Colby Parkinson.
Despite the rivalry and the fact that both teams are ranked in the top ten, you may see a bit of an early let down from after Stanford’s emotional in conference comeback win and Notre Dame’s defense having played their second game in a 15 day span that saw the opposing team run over 90 offensive plays. How the coaches for both are able to handle those variables will be one of many key deciding factors in this weeks game.
THE FINAL DECISION
Notre Dame has struggled against top tier completion in recent years having gone 3-11 under Brian Kelly against top 13 teams and 3-21 overall in their last 24 in that same scenario. While those are damning stats, all 11 of those losses under Kelly were on the road, and this week they get Stanford at home in the friendly confines of Notre Dame Stadium in front of what should be a raucous Saturday night crowd. In what was a difficult game to call, I’m going to follow the trend though and take the six point head start and go with Stanford to get the cover in what should be a close game in South Bend.
Mike’sPick to Cover the Point Spread: Stanford +6