Stanford Cardinal vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Point Spread – Pick Against the Spread

No. 17 Stanford Cardinal (4-1 SU, 2-3 ATS) vs. No. 7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-0 SU, 4-1 ATS)
College Football Week 7
Date/Time: Saturday, October 13th, 2012/3:30 p.m. EST
Where: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.
by Badger, Football Handicapper,

Point Spread: Stan. +8/ND -8
Over/Under Total: 44.5

The Stanford Cardinal and Notre Dame Fighting Irish have one of the better rivalries going in college football, but this year the game will have added meaning when the 17th-ranked Cardinal travel to Notre Dame Stadium to take on the 7th-ranked Irish for Saturday’s marquee game on NBC.

Notre Dame enters Saturday’s showdown undefeated at 5-0 and ranked the highest they’ve been ranked in years, thanks in part to last weekend’s rout of Miami (FL), 41-3. The Irish scored 28 unanswered points in the second half to turn a 13-3 game at halftime into a landside, most of it behind a strong rushing attack that amassed 376 yards on the ground, as the Irish disposed of the Hurricanes in the first meeting between the two schools since the old “Catholics vs. Convicts” days.

Stanford will also enter on the heels of an emotional win, a 54-48, overtime triumph over Arizona that helped them rebound from their only loss of the season two weeks ago on the road in Washington. Quarterback Josh Nunes, who took a lot of heat for the loss to Washington, threw for 360 yards and two scores and added three rushing touchdowns to spark the Cardinal back from a 14-point deficit late in the fourth quarter.

With the SEC’s marquee game (No. 3 South Carolina at No. 9 LSU) a little later on Saturday night, the Cardinal-Irish matchup will be the biggest game shown on NBC since the old “Must See TV” days on the national network.

With a lot on the line Saturday, oddsmakers opened the game with Notre Dame as 10-point favorites at home. It only took a few hours for the early West Coast money on Stanford to drop the betting line down to minus -9, and a day later the line movement hasn’t stopped since the number is down to Notre Dame minus -8 at most sportsbooks in Las Vegas and offshore

Most of the bookies already listing an over/under total for the game are opening the betting at 44.5, but there are a few listing 45 as the total on their boards.

Both of these teams can be a little challenged at times on offense, but that’s usually okay because they also feature two of the best front-sevens on defense in the country.

Stanford is one of the hardest defenses to run the ball on in college football (allowing 77 ypg – 7th), while Notre Dame features a top-15 unit overall that is one of the hardest to score on so far this season (only 7.8 ppg – 2nd).

What will make this an interesting game is that both teams like to run the ball as much as possible on offense, which at least on paper will play right into the hands of both defenses. Notre Dame’s three-pronged running attack of Cierre Wood, George Atkinson III and Cam McDaniel is a little more dangerous (187 ypg) then the Stanford attack of led by Stepfan Taylor (154 ypg), but both teams make it a point of emphasis to try and get yards on the ground early and often to set up their young quarterbacks in the passing game.

Stanford has enjoyed a three-year run over the Irish in the series, including last year’s 28-14 win in California, but now that Andrew Luck is playing on Sunday’s the Irish hope this year is the year they get back on top. Prior to Luck coming to Stanford, the Irish owned the series, winning seven straight years going back to the 2002 season.

Keep in mind that most of the recent betting trends were established during the Luck years at Stanford, but for what its worth the Cardinal have been strong on the road (12-3-1 ATS in L16 road games) and strong against teams outside of the PAC-12 (9-1 in L10 non-conference games).

Just about every trend on the total seems to point to the under. Not only is the under 5-1 the last six times these two have met in South Bend, but the under is also 17-5 in the Irish’s last 22 home games and 5-2 in Stanford’s last seven games on the road.

Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Notre Dame defense has made a believer out of me, but the Cardinal offense is probably the best unit they’ve faced all season so far (maybe Michigan’s is close, but it’s a coin flip). I also think the Irish will struggle to run the ball on Saturday, putting the game in the hands of Everett Golson (or Tommy Rees) to win it throwing, something I’m not sure he’s capable of doing yet. I lean to a Stanford cover here, but I think the under is the best play and best value on the board for this game, so I’m taking the under of 44.5.

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