One of the top Saturday afternoon (3:30pm ET) games for week 6 of the 2014 college football season is a top-25 pairing of the 14th ranked Stanford Cardinal (3-1) of the PAC-12 against the 9th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-0) at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN. Stanford won a hard-fought game at conference foe Washington 20-13 last week, and also owns wins over UC Davis (45-0) and Army (35-0); but lost to USC 13-10 at home in week 2. Notre Dame won 31-15 against Syracuse in the New Jersey Meadowlands last week, and has also defeated Rice (48-17), Michigan (31-0) and Purdue (30-14).
Stanford continues to employ a hard-nosed style of play characterized by strong defense and a physical, run-oriented offense. The Cardinal defense held Washington to 179 total yards in their win last week, and they ran the ball for 186 yards. Stanford ranks 77th among FBS teams in scoring offense with 27.5 points per game and 68th in total offense with 413.3 YPG. The Cardinal ranks #1 in scoring defense with 6.5 PPG allowed and #1 in total defense with 198 YPG allowed.
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Notre Dame ranks 47th nationally in scoring offense with 35 PPG and 55th in total offense with 444.3 YPG. Quarterback Everett Golson has been outstanding so far this season as ND has averaged 285.5 YPG through the air (35th nationally); but had turnover problems last week against Syracuse as the Irish coughed up the ball 5 times in that game. The Irish ranks 4th nationally in scoring defense with 11.5 PPG allowed and 38th in total defense with 343.8 YPG allowed.
Stanford vs. Notre Dame Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Stanford Cardinal -2
@Notre Dame Fighting Irish +2
Over 44.5 (-110)
Under 44.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from BetOnline.ag
Stanford vs. Notre Dame Pick:
Notre Dame is 1-3 ATS in its last 4 games against PAC-12 teams, and 1-3 ATS in its last 4 against Stanford. The Irish are 3-1 ATS this season, 8-4 straight up in their last 12 meetings with Stanford and 9-5-1 ATS in games started by Golson. Stanford won 27-20 at home in their meeting last season.
This will be the toughest test of the young season for both Stanford and Notre Dame, and neither team can afford a loss if they hope to remain in the picture for the inaugural College Football Playoff with the Cardinal already having one loss and ND facing a road game at #1 Florida St. later this month. The last time the Cardinal came to South Bend in 2012, ND notched a 20-13 win in overtime in a game started by Golson. Do not expect a ton of offense in this game as ND managed only 263 total yards against Stanford last season and 334 yards in their 2012 meeting. The key to winning the game for Golson and company will be avoiding the turnovers that plagued them last week.
Stanford will try to outmuscle the Irish with their physical style of play and running game, but Stanford has not run the ball as well this season as in season’s past. They rank in the middle of the pack with 165.5 YPG (69th nationally) on the ground, and ND is strong against the run at 27th nationally with 108 YPG allowed. Teams have run on the Cardinal some this season in comparison with previous years with an average of 124 YPG rushing allowed, but their pass defense has been lights out at #1 nationally. Part of that is a result of playing two of the worst passing teams in the country in Army (122nd) and Washington (110th). They should be tested more by Golson, the call here is that Stanford’s weaker running game and Golson’s ability to avoid turnovers will give the Irish the edge here. Take N and the points.