Sky-Rocketing Notre Dame Fighting Irish Host Stanford

By: Michael Robinson | Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are rolling along despite a revolving door at quarterback. They face their third ranked opponent of the year with the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday afternoon.

The Don Best college football odds screen has Notre Dame as mostly 8-point favorites. The total is 45-45½ and the game will start at 3:30 p.m. (ET) from Notre Dame Stadium.

Notre Dame (5-0 straight up, 4-1 against the spread) is flying up the polls after being No. 23 in the Coaches in the preseason and unranked in the AP. The team is now No. 7 in both and moved up from No. 11 to No. 9 in the Don Best Linemakers Poll released today.

Coach Brian Kelly’s team is 5-0 for the first time since 2002 and gaining confidence every week. The latest example is a 41-3 drubbing of Miami as 15-point favorites with the running game amassing an incredible 376 yards. That helped dominate the time of possession (39-21 minutes).

Quarterback Everett Golson was an efficient 17-of-22 (77.3 percent) for 186 yards. He was benched to start the game after a violation of team rules. Golson should be the starter this week, but junior Tommy Rees has already replaced him twice during games and there’s no guarantee for either player each week.

Senior Cierre Wood is emerging as the featured back after being suspended the first two games. He’s averaging 6.1 yards per carry as opposed to 3.9 for Theo Riddick. The explosive George Atkinson is averaging 9.3 ypc and has broken off TD runs of 55 and 56 yards.

The Fighting Irish have been tremendous defensively, second in the nation in points allowed (7.8 PPG), trailing only Alabama. They held ranked Michigan and Michigan State to nine total points in the two games preceding Miami, an embarrassing development for the Big Ten.

The ‘under’ is 4-0 in Notre Dame’s last four overall.

The Cardinal (4-1 SU, 2-3 ATS) are still trying to navigate their way in the post Andrew Luck era. They remain a solid Pac-12 program ranked No. 17 by the AP and Coaches.

Quarterback Josh Nunes has been in the spotlight all year replacing the esteemed Luck. He struggled badly in the only road game, a 17-13 loss at Washington on September 27 that had many fans calling for his head.

The junior signal caller rebounded in a big way last game, rallying from a 48-34 fourth-quarter deficit at home versus Arizona (winning 54-48 in OT). Nunes was 21-of-34 for 360 yards, throwing for two TDs and rushing for three more. The Cardinal didn’t cover as 10-point favorites, their second ATS failure in a row.

Coach David Shaw knows he can’t rely on another great performance from Nunes (126.1 overall rating, ranked 87th). Running back Stepfan Taylor needs to get at least 20 carries and 80 yards, but that won’t be easy against linebacker Manti Te’o and the Irish front seven.

Nunes will have to pass effectively to win and will concentrate on big tight ends Zach Ertz (316 yards) and Levine Toilolo (278 yards), the team leaders in receiving yardage.

The Stanford defense also has questions after allowing 48 points to Arizona, only 13 less than the first four games combined.  The good news is the ‘D’ is only allowing 77.2 YPG on the ground (sixth nationally) and it’s that matchup that will determine if Stanford can keep this in single digits.

This is a great annual rivalry that will continue even after Notre Dame moves to the ACC for sports besides football and hockey. Stanford won the last three years with Luck under center, covering the last two.

The ‘under’ also went 2-0 the last two years with a higher total around 59 each time.

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