A pair of longtime rivals will get together for their annual get together to close out the regular season, as the no. 16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish head to the west coast to face the Stanford Cardinal. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:00 EST on Saturday, November 30 at Stanford Stadium. The game will be nationally televised on Fox.
According to the Week 14 college football odds, the Irish are favored by 16.5 points on the road. The game also has an over/under of 51 points.
The Irish won’t be playing in the College Football Playoff this year, but Brian Kelly’s team has still put together a respectable season. Notre Dame has a chance to notch its 10th win of the season on Saturday and perhaps make it 11 with a bowl win. The Irish’s only two losses have come on the road against Georgia and Michigan. Otherwise, they’ve taken care of business, including lopsided wins over the likes of Duke, Navy, and Boston College in recent weeks. They are set up to go to a good bowl game and could sneak into a New Year’s Six game if they beat Stanford and get a little outside help.
As for Stanford, this will be the final game of the 2019 season. Following last week’s loss to Cal, the Cardinal’s third straight defeat, Stanford lost any hope of becoming bowl eligible. It’s been a rough year for the Cardinal, who sputtered down the stretch and finished just 3-6 in Pac-12 play. For the first time since 2008 when Jim Harbaugh was the head coach, Stanford won’t be going to a bowl game. That’s a streak of 10 straight seasons that’s come to an end for David Shaw and company.
Of course, beating Notre Dame and hoisting the Legends Trophy would be just as nice as going to a bowl game and a great way for Stanford to close out the 2019 campaign. It’s worth noting that the Cardinal has gotten the better of the Irish for the past decade, winning this annual rivalry game in seven of the last 10 years. On the other hand, Notre Dame started to turn the tables last year with a 38-17 win in South Bend. The Fighting Irish will now look to make it two wins in a row against the Cardinal by winning their first game in Stanford Stadium since 2007.
I’ve stayed optimistic about Stanford throughout the season, always expecting Shaw to turn things around sooner or later and get the Cardinal to a bowl. But that simply hasn’t happened. Admittedly, this is a few weeks too late, but I’m jumping off the Stanford bandwagon and now expecting the Fighting Irish to turn this rivalry game into a blowout.
In Stanford’s defense, starting quarterback K.J. Costello has battled injuries all season and will miss the season finale. Things may have turned out differently if he had been able to play every game. Backup Davis Mills has also missed time due to injury, although he’s returned to play the last two games. While Mills has put up some impressive numbers the past two weeks, he’s also thrown four interceptions during that span. That kind of ball security is a concern against the Notre Dame defense. The Irish have held four straight opponents to 20 points or less and are giving up an average of 18 points per game this year.
To make matters worse, the Cardinal never really got their running game going for the second straight season. Senior running back Cameron Scarlet has had a few nice games, but he’s struggled to find consistency. As a team, Stanford is averaging just barely 100 yards per game on the ground. That’s just not going to cut it, especially against a Notre Dame defense that kept a potent Boston College rushing attack in check last week.
On the other side of the ball, the Stanford defense has also had plenty of ups and downs this year. At times, the Cardinal has figured it out on that side of the ball, but injuries and depth issues have often caught up with them. Some of the more dynamic offensive teams on their schedule have had their way with Stanford, with USC, Central Florida, and Washington State all putting up over 40 points against them.
I’ll admit that Notre Dame’s offense isn’t quite as dynamic as some of those teams. But the Irish have a good balance between the run and pass, which should lead to problems for Stanford. Notre Dame has gotten just enough from Tony Jones and the running game to open things up for quarterback Ian Book, who’s been consistent and efficient. Book has had two of his best games the last two weeks, throwing eight touchdown passes with no interceptions against Boston College and Navy. I’m not sure Stanford will far much better than either of those teams, so I’m expecting Book to have another good outing.
Unless the Fighting Irish takes Stanford lightly, I expect them to win this game with a comfortable cushion and have no problem covering the spread. The Cardinal isn’t good enough on either side of the ball to keep up with a ranked team over 60 minutes. The spread in this game seems more than reasonable, so I have no problem laying down the points for the Irish.