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Keys To Victory For The Notre Dame Defense vs. Stanford

Breaking down the keys to victory for the Notre Dame defense in its matchup against Stanford

Notre Dame (10-1) takes on Stanford (3-8) tonight in its final regular season matchup of the season. Led by defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, the Irish defense has been brilliant in the month of November, giving up just nine points in three games.

For Notre Dame to make one final convincing statement to the College Football Playoff committee the defense needs to finish the month off the same way it started the month.

Here are the keys to victory for the Irish defense against Stanford.

1. Control The Line Of Scrimmage — The greatest strength of the 2021 Notre Dame football team has been its defensive line. Notre Dame is talented and deep up front, and the dominant play of the line has fueled much of the success on defense this season.

If you want to impress the playoff committee the best way is for your best unit to dominate from start to finish. Notre Dame needs to shut down Stanford's poor ground attack, creating negatives and stuffs right away, forcing the Cardinal to be one dimensional.

Stanford's line has some talent but it doesn't play well together. The Irish front needs to make sure it beats the Cardinal blockers off the ball, win with pad level and be disruptive all game long.

2. Get To McKee Early And Often — Part of the success up front must include getting to quarterback Tanner McKee early and often. McKee has a big arm and when he gets comfortable in the pocket he can be dangerous.

The problem for McKee and the Stanford offense is he's young and relatively immobile. It's relatively simple, if Stanford is going to have a chance against Notre Dame it needs to get McKee going. If Notre Dame is going to dominate the Cardinal the way it has its last three opponents it must ensure that McKee never gets comfortable or gets into rhythm.

Hitting McKee early and often will accomplish that. Isaiah Foskey should have a big game if the Cardinal choose not to double him, and I could see Jayson Ademilola dominating up the middle. 

3. Limit Back Shoulder Throws — Stanford's wide receivers and tight ends have struggled to stay on the field together, but the unit is getting more and more healthy. The Cardinal have some big weapons on the outside, and when the offense is going well it is winning one-on-one throws on the outside, especially its back shoulders.

Notre Dame corners Cam Hart and Clarence Lewis have the size to play with the bigger wideouts, but they need to be sharp with their technique and play the ball effectively. 

TaRiq Bracy lacks that size, so he'll need to make sure he plays the ball well to prevent Stanford from beating him with the chain-moving back shoulders and the big play shot down the field.

4. Get Your Offense The Ball — Stanford is going to try and control the ball with its chain-moving pass plays and with its run game. It knows it can't get into a shootout with Notre Dame. The Irish need to dominate Stanford, and the best way to do that is to get the ball back to its own offense as quickly, and often, as possible.

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That means winning on early downs, forcing incompletions and forcing as many quick punts as possible. Stanford has also turned the ball over at least twice in six straight games, and early turnovers could be just what the Irish need to blow this game out early.

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