No. 16 Notre Dame (9-2) will look to accomplish something tomorrow it hasn’t in over a decade, which is beat Stanford on the road. The 4-7 Cardinal are scuffling, but the opportunity for the Irish is still big.
Notre Dame has a significant matchup advantage on offense, but execution will still be key. Let’s take a look at the offensive keys to a Notre Dame victory.
1. Fast Start Is Crucial — I think starting fast is always an important key for an offense, but it’s especially true in this game. Records and stats are one thing, but there isn’t a Notre Dame player on the roster that knows what it’s like or what it takes to win a game at Stanford. If Notre Dame is sloppy early in the game and allows Stanford to stay in this game it will end up being another dogfight.
Notre Dame starting fast would accomplish three important things. One, it will give the road team an early jolt of energy and confidence. Two, it would let the Cardinal know right away they have no chance in this contest. Three, it would force the Stanford offense to be even more pass happy than it already is, which would allow the Irish defense to pin its ears back and attack.
2. Have A Strong Rushing Game Plan — Yes, Notre Dame can and should be able to throw the ball effectively against Stanford. But it is expected to be cold and rainy, which means Notre Dame must be smarter than it was against Michigan and have comprehensive run game plan.
That means building the game plan around the run game by using formations and motions to establish good numbers and leverage advantages. It means sticking with the ground game even if it doesn’t work right away. It means attacking inside and outside. It means using quarterback Ian Book as a runner.
Establishing the rushing game and punishing Stanford on the ground would also send a message that Stanford is no longer the more physical team, which has been the case over the last decade. It would be a key to winning this game, but would also make a much-needed statement.
3. Attack Down The Field — If the ground game gets established it will set up even more big play opportunities in the pass game. With All-American cornerback Paulson Adebo not expected to play, Notre Dame should be able to beat Stanford down the field with its pass game. The reality is without Adebo the Cardinal have no one capable of containing Chase Claypool, which means the Cardinal must decide to either double cover him, which sets up matchup advantages for other players, or play its normal coverage and hope it can get to Book and not allow him to throw deep.
If the line protects Book and the Irish quarterback is aggressive and accurate in this contest he should have a big game throwing the football.