Well, this is it. Regardless of what happens tomorrow, it definitely won’t be the Irish’s last game tomorrow. While I’m proud of how they’ve overcome every obstacle thrown at them this year (save the Clemson game, if that even counts as an obstacle), I expect the playoffs. I did at the beginning of the year, and I didn’t back off my expectations even after Malik Zaire went down with his broken ankle. Stanford stands to be the last hoop to jump through that ND can control. Everything past this is a result of other games or the opinions of the playoff committee.
Stanford has been a good team this year, as usual. However, I don’t think they look like a particularly elite team at all. This shouldn’t be a game that the Irish cannot handle, shorthanded on defense or not.
DeShone Kizer cannot play the way he did against Boston College again. And to be honest, I don’t think he will. He’s a kid with unshakable confidence; you can say whatever you want about him, his skill set, or his weapons. Whatever your opinion is, you cannot deny that seeing him rattled on the field has been rare. Stanford has a solid defense, but Kizer has played against much harder defenses (the Cardinals have the 70th best pass defense) in much harder venues. The Cardinals have a good rushing defense, which is why I believe Josh Adams will be/should be used in a complimentary role. If Kizer can have an efficient day and significantly cut down his turnovers, the offense will put points on the board, business and usual.
Obviously the Irish are now working with a patched-up secondary. But the strength in this Stanford team isn’t passing- it’s Christian McCaffrey. He’s a great all-purpose back who really carries this team. Their receivers are all good, but none of them are great; none of them are studs. None of them are the best that the Irish have seen this year. Kevin Hogan, while reliable, isn’t a quarterback who I think can go out and reliably win you ball games.
If you’ve noticed by now, I’ve picked Notre Dame in every single game this year. And that’s not changing this week. There’s no doubt that part of the reason is the fact that I’m such a big fan, but I genuinely believe that ND is one of the 5 or 6 best teams in the entire country. Great teams have depth, and hopefully the Irish show off their depth. ND by 7.