Stanford-Notre Dame not the big game expected in preseason
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Stanford vs. Notre Dame looked like a marquee game before the season began.
It's not drawing much midseason interest. Not with the Fighting Irish (2-4), who started the season ranked No. 10, trying to avoid losing three straight at home for the first time since 2007, and the Cardinal (3-2), ranked No. 8 in preseason, trying to avoid their first three-game losing streak since 2007.
Stanford also could be without Heisman Trophy runner-up Christian McCaffrey because of an unspecified injury . So instead of a game with playoff implications, like last year when the teams traded leads twice in the final 30 seconds, both head into Saturday struggling.
''I still believe we're a good football team trying to find its way,'' Stanford coach David Shaw said. ''We have these things that are correctable and guys who are capable.''
The Cardinal have been blown out in back-to-back games, losing 44-6 to Washington and 42-16 to Washington State. Stanford, known for its dominant offensive lines, has struggled up front. The Cardinal rank 100th in the nation in rushing, averaging 140.8 yards, and 106th in sacks allowed.
Shaw said the offensive line is not the only unit not playing consistently well.
''We have been inconsistent one through 11. It looks like the offensive line because we didn't run with any efficiency early in the game and because of the sacks. We all have a hand in it,'' he said.
The problem for the Irish is their defense. Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder was fired three weeks ago, and the offense hasn't been able to come up with enough big plays late. Kelly believes the Irish need a win to get things going.
''They just have to break through. They're doing all of the things I am asking them to do. They've just got to go win,'' he said.
It will be the first time since 2009 the Cardinal and Irish have played where neither is ranked.
Other things to know about the Stanford-Notre Dame:
SLOWING MCCAFFREY: The Irish were successful in slowing McCaffrey last season, holding him to 94 yards on 29 carries with no touchdowns.
''If you can control the line of scrimmage or win the match-ups up front, you can definitely slow him down,'' said Kelly, who expects McCaffrey to play.
The Irish rank 84th in the nation in rush defense, giving up 181.2 yards a game.
INJURY UPDATE: Both teams expect to get key contributors back from injuries. The Cardinal are expected to have cornerback Quentin Meeks and receiver Francis Owusu while the Irish are expected to have running back Tarean Folston, who missed the past two games.
INTERCEPTION STREAK: Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer has thrown interceptions in five straight games. Overall he has completed 104 of 177 passes for an average of 270.2 yards a game with 14 touchdowns and five interceptions.
HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE: The home team has won seven of the last eight games in the series, with Stanford winning in Kelly's first season in South Bend in 2010. Stanford has won only three times in 15 games at Notre Dame.
CLOSE GAMES: Seven of the past nine games have been decided by a touchdown or less. Two of those games were decided on final plays: in 2012, when a wall of Notre Dame defenders stopped Stepfan Taylor inches from the end zone on fourth-and-1 in overtime and last season when Conrad Ukropina kicked a 35-yard field goal 30 seconds after the Irish scored what they thought was the game-winning touchdown.
TICKET SALE: People with tickets for the game, which have a face value of $125, have had trouble getting rid of them. On Wednesday a ticket was priced as low as $29.98 on StubHub and on Friday a ticket was selling for $41. Tickets together were going for as low as $54 apiece.