The first half of the 2022 college football season has produced a mixed bag of good and bad for most teams. Traditional powerhouses have more red flags than expected and some teams (looking at you Tennessee) are over delivering in ways that few would have predicted. Notre Dame football’s Week 7 opponent, Stanford, has been gifted very little good fortune.
The Stanford Cardinal are coming into the matchup 1-4, with its only win coming against Colgate in a Week 1 home game. Since then, their record and performances have been pretty rough but a lot of that can be attributed to bad luck with scheduling. Through their first 5 games of the season, Stanford has faced three opponents that have cracked the AP Top 20 at some point (USC, Oregon and Washington). For even the strongest of teams that’s a rough go of it.
So let’s dig through some of the data to set some expectations for the game.
Putting up points hasn’t been the biggest struggle the Cardinal have faced this season, at least in relation to Notre Dame.
Through five games, they’ve tallied up a total of 145 points, averaging around 29 points per game. They aren’t very different from ND in this regard.
The Irish have put up 128 total points, averaging 25 points per game. Stanford’s most prolific scoring has come in the 2nd and 4th quarters. When breaking down scoring by category, the teams are pretty comparable. Stanford has the slight edge regarding passing touchdowns and the teams are dead even in terms of rushing touchdowns.
Parity in Total Yards
The two teams have not differed that much in terms of total yards per game. Following Stanford’s Week 3 bye and Notre Dame’s first victory against Cal, the Cardinal have been trending on the wrong side of things.
Slight Passer Edge to Notre Dame
Stanford has a slight edge when it comes to passing touchdowns but the overall passing edge in this game is likely to go in Notre Dame’s direction.
The Cardinal’s go-to quarterback, junior Tanner McKee, is coming into the game with 1,249 yards and a 64% completion rate on 154 attempts. Though he has a smaller sample size to work from, Irish quarterback Drew Pyne has 721 yards and a 73% completion rate on 91 attempts. The ND defense has done a very solid job of containing opponents’ passing games (barring 2nd half issues) so all-in-all ND looks to come out on top in this area.
Big Rushing Edge to Notre Dame
Stanford’s rushing game has not produced a lot to write home about this season.
The team has racked up 693 total yards on the ground, averaging 138 yards per game. Following its Week 3 bye, the Cardinal’s rushing game has trickled off and they put up only 90 total yards (3.3 yards per carry) in last week’s loss to Oregon State. We’re starting to see the Notre Dame rushing game come into a pretty good form so it’s likely that the Irish will outperform the Cardinal’s offense on the ground.
The bulk of Stanford’s rushing game is funneled through junior running back, Casey Filkins. Through five games, Filkins has 82 carries and is averaging 4.1 yards per attempt. He accounts for 63% (339) of Stanford’s total yards on the ground. Other junior running back, E.J. Smith has 30 carries and has accounted for 38% (206) of the team’s total rushing yards.
Quarterback Tanner McKee occupies a weird spot in Stanford’s rushing game. He has 28 attempts with an average of around -2 yards per attempt. From a yardage perspective, he’s had a net negative contribution, a lot which can be wracked up to his 16 total sacks so far.
Slight Receiver Advantage to Stanford
Notre Dame’s struggles with the receiving corps this season are well documented to those who’ve been keeping track. Michael Mayer has carried to group in a way that few are complaining about but we’re still waiting to see what the rest of the Irish receivers will produce.
Stanford comes into the matchup with a much more “diversified” receiver group. They’ve split the workload amongst the wide receiver, tight end and running back position groups. Senior wide receiver Elijah Higgins leads the team in receptions, with 19 so far on the season. Senior wide receiver Michael Wilson has the second highest number of receptions, 17 but leads the team in yards. Wilson has racked up 28% (352) of the team’s total receiving yards through Week 6.
Ball Movement Struggles for Stanford
Similar to the rushing game, Stanford’s overall ball movement has fallen off slighty since its Week 3 bye. The Cardinal are averaging around 20 first downs a game in Weeks 4-6. The team has proven to be slightly more predictable in terms of 3rd down conversions and are converting around 40% per game.
Turnover Opportunities for Notre Dame
An area that Stanford hasn’t been great in but has progressively improved in is ball security.
Up to this point in the season, they’ve turned the ball over a total of 13 times. Most of those turnovers have come via lost fumbles, though, that’s been trending downwards and their Week 6 loss to Oregon state was the first game this season that they haven’t lost a fumble. The Cardinal’s thrown interceptions have come with a little less consistency, but they threw a game high of 2 in Week 2 against USC.
In last week’s game against BYU we saw the Irish defense get a bit more into the forced turnover game so I’m hoping to see them continue that this week against a Stanford team who’s been struggling with holding onto the ball.
Defensive Wildcard: Stanford
Up to this point in the season, the Notre Dame defense has played very well and there’s not a lot of reason to believe that’ll change in this matchup against Stanford. The same can’t be said for the Cardinal.
If the scoring output for the two teams is the most common factor, keeping opponents off the scoreboard is the biggest differentiator. Stanford’s defense has allowed a total of 164 points from opponents, averaging out to around 33 points per game.
It’s not so much that they’ve given up incredible amounts of yards but more so that they just can’t keep opponents off the scoreboard. With a Notre Dame offense that’s finding its stride, this will most likely play in the Irish’s favor.
Stanford brings a very mixed bag of data going into this game. It’s hard to conceive a path to victory for them against Notre Dame but it’s also pretty difficult to spell out in detail how the Irish victory will look.
I’m hoping that Notre Dame can clean up some of its trouble spots and we can see a more polished BYUesque game this weekend, with the Irish offense taking most of center stage and the defense continuing to do what it needs to against an offense it should handily contain. Anything less than a sound ND win will come as the result of lapses on the Irish side of the field. Here’s to hoping that storyline is in our rear view for this season.
Cheers and Go Irish!!