Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly talks about the Irish’s win over Wake Forest.
If 2018 is like 2017 – and 2016 and 2015 – then Stanford will beat Notre Dame in college football Saturday.
It is not as if the Fighting Irish are getting blown out. Indeed, they led in the fourth quarter of each of the past three meetings. But Stanford is 7-2 against Notre Dame since 2009, and stakes are especially high Saturday (7:36 p.m., NBC).
The pairing between No. 7 Stanford (4-0) and No. 8 Notre Dame (4-0) is the first ever with both ranked in the Top 10 and the first game at Notre Dame Stadium between two top-eight teams since 1996.
The winner will enhance its chances of making the College Football Playoff. Given a schedule that appears weaker than projected, anything short of 12-0 might eliminate the Fighting Irish from the final four.
In reviewing the past two Stanford games, coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday the Irish “had a lot to do with” those defeats.
“As you know, in both instances, we turned the football over,” he said. “So this is much more about us taking care of the football and playing it for four quarters. We have a great deal of respect for Stanford and how they run their program, but we need to play for four quarters and play good football.”
Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book talks about his five-touchdown performance against Wake Forest.
>> In 2017, the Irish led 20-17. After Stanford went ahead 24-20, Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush had his first pass of the ensuing drive intercepted. Stanford scored three players later and won 38-20.
>> In 2016, Notre Dame led 10-0 until Quenton Meeks intercepted DeShone Kizer’s pass and ran 50 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter. Stanford won 17-10.
>> In 2015, Kizer’s 2-yard touchdown run sent Notre Dame ahead 36-35 with 30 seconds left at Stanford. A field goal as time expired lifted the Cardinal to a 38-36 victory, knocking the No. 6 Irish (10-2) out of the playoff picture.
Against Stanford, it is never over ‘til it’s over. Oregon had a 99 percent win probability Saturday night, then blew a 17-point lead and lost to Stanford 38-31 in overtime. That is among the reasons David Shaw is considered one of the elite coaches in the sport.
“Their systems are consistent within their program — their systems in terms of how they recruit, their systems of offense, defense and special teams are consistent,” Kelly said. “And so I think if you look at him as the president of a business or an organization, there’s a great consistency from the top to the bottom there, and that usually equals success. And it has in his case.”
On the other hand, Kelly said the Irish are more familiar with an opponent such as Stanford than they were with Michigan (“you don’t know what you’re going to get”) and Ball State (“we got something we didn’t expect at all”).
Book or Wimbush? Wimbush or Book?
Kelly declined to affirm Ian Book will continue to start at quarterback. After Brandon Wimbush started the first three games, Book replaced him and led the Irish over Wake Forest 56-27 last week.
The most important thing, Kelly said, is that both stay sharp during the week.
“Our offense allows for both of them to separate quite easy within the playbook,” Kelly said. “What’s installed within our offense, we’re not going into a whole new chapter and verse, if you will, to play call for one versus the other.”
Next week’s Notre Dame opponent, Virginia Tech, lost more than a 49-35 game to Old Dominion, a 27 ½-point underdog. QB Josh Jackson was sidelined by a broken leg, and star DE Trevon Hill was dismissed from the team. . . . Notre Dame RB Dexter Williams, who has been on a suspension, is expected to play against Stanford. Williams averaged 9.2 yards on 39 carries last season. “He’s better in all facets than the Dexter Williams version that we had in the spring,” Kelly said. . . . DL Ja’mion Franklin, a freshman, will have season-ending surgery to reattach a quadriceps tendon. . . . CB Julian Love has tied the 47-year-old Notre Dame record held by Clarence Ellis for most pass breakups in a career (32).
Contact IndyStar reporter David Woods at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 317-444-6195. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidWoods007.