SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Stanford visits Notre Dame on Saturday evening in one of the biggest college football games of the season to date between two undefeated top-10 teams. This game will have significant College Football Playoff implications come season’s end, especially for the eighth-ranked Fighting Irish as the seventh-ranked Cardinal are, for the time being, the only ranked team left on their schedule.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Notre Dame -5.5.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly surprised many by benching senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush in favor of Ian Book before last weekend’s game against Wake Forest, and the decision paid off in spades as Book accounted for five touchdowns (three rushing, two passing) as the Fighting Irish crushed the Demon Deacons 56-27. “I didn’t sleep great (on Friday night), because that’s a pretty big decision to make when you’re 3-0 and your quarterback that was leading your football team was 13-3 as a starter,” Kelly told reporters of his decision to sit Wimbush. Stanford trailed 24-7 at the half against No. 20 Oregon last week, but an 80-yard fumble return in the third quarter by linebacker Joey Alfieri helped sparked the Cardinal’s comeback in the 38-31 overtime win. “This game was pretty awesome. It was one of the coolest games I’ve been a part of in terms of highs and lows, and really just staying steady throughout the entire night,” quarterback K.J. Costello told reporters after the game.
ABOUT STANFORD (4-0)
Costello threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns, including a 23-yarder to tight end Colby Parkinson in overtime that gave Stanford the lead before cornerback Alameen Murphy’s interception in the end zone sealed it. Senior running back Bryce Love, a preseason Heisman Trophy favorite, ran for 89 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and should be well-rested after sitting out Week 3 to rest some minor undisclosed injuries. Love figures to be heavily involved in this week’s game plan, as he gashed the Fighting Irish for 125 yards on 20 carries in last year’s 38-20 home win over Notre Dame.
ABOUT NOTRE DAME (4-0)
Book sparked the Fighting Irish offense by getting the ball into the hands of Notre Dame’s perimeter playmakers and the result was 59 points and 566 total yards, both season highs. Notre Dame’s receivers made 25 catches on the day and that opened up huge holes for the running game, where sophomore Jafar Armstrong piled up 98 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. The Irish offense is clicking at the right time and could receive a big boost on Saturday as senior running back Dexter Williams, who averaged 9.2 yards per carry in a backup role last season, is expected to return from a four-game suspension.
1. This is the 22nd consecutive year that these two teams will face off. The Irish lead the all-time series 18-13 (with one vacated win), but Stanford has won the last three contests.
2. Notre Dame is 1-6 in this rivalry with Kelly as head coach (with one vacated win), while Cardinal coach David Shaw is 5-2 against the Irish.
3. Stanford’s defense is allowing 13.5 points per game, which is tied for the 10th-best mark in FBS.
PREDICTION: Notre Dame 24, Stanford 21
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