Under first year head coach Troy Taylor, Stanford is 3-8 and they are the only FBS team to not have a home win this year. Their three wins came at Hawaii in the season opener, at Colorado in a 2-overtime thriller and three weeks ago at Washington St. The Cardinal’s only common opponent with ND has been USC. The Trojans dominated Stanford back in week two, 56-10.
Interestingly, they have been competitive against some good teams. They were 1-point losers to 8-3 Arizona, and they lost to undefeated Washington 42-33 in a game in which they tailed by just 2 points in the 4th quarter.
Taylor comes over from a successful three year run at FCS Sacramento State with a reputation for scoring points and wants to spread the field and play up tempo. Last season at Sacramento his offense averaged 42.9 points.
The Cardinal team that upset the Irish in South Bend last season 16-14 is almost completely gone. Just two starters return from that team that went 3-9 a year ago.
Stanford is struggling on both sides of the football. Nationally they are ranked 90th in total offense and 127th in total defense. They give up an eye-popping 36 points per game (126th).
Starting quarterback sophomore Ashton Daniels is a 59% passer who has thrown 11 TD passes and 7 interceptions. Daniels is a runner, and has rushed for 6 TDs in his career and has snapped off runs of 43,24 and 22 yards. Having little conventional run game to speak of, Daniels is in fact The Cardinal’s leading rusher with 295 yards on the year. Interestingly, backup Quarterback Justin Jameson is the team’s second leading rusher and actually has the most carries on the team with 110. At times, both quarterbacks have been on the field, and Jameson, does take handoffs from Daniels.
Stanford’s top receiver has been 6-2, 210 Elic Ayomanor who hails from Medicine Hat, Alberta. Ayomanor is having a big year with 55 catches for 955 yards and 6 TDs. In the overtime win over Colorado, he set a Stanford record with 294 yards on 13 catches and he had 3 TDs. For that performance he was named the national player of the week. Senior Tight end Ben Yurosek, who has had a very productive career in Palo Alto is injured and not expected to play.
Besides struggling to support a consistent ground game, the offensive line has given up 37 sacks, 118th in the nation.
Defensively Stanford has been middle of the pack against the run, but they are yielding an average of 312 passing yards per game. That is the next to worst mark in the country.
Elic Ayomanor looks to be a real threat in the passing game, but on paper there is not a lot else that is positive to say about this football team. However after their upset in Notre Dame Stadium last year, what has to concern is that Stanford has played well against some really good teams.
That said, expect significant dominance by the Irish in this game on both side of the line of scrimmage and motivation should not be a problem. The Irish have a bowl game to look forward to, Stanford nothing and judging from past experience, I expect a lot of empty seats in their stadium.
ND is a 26.5 point favorite and the over/under is 51.5.
The Fighting Irish Preview Pick: ND 41 Stanford 10