Four (Not So) Preposterous Predictions: Notre Dame

Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Stanford has been very unpredictable over the past three games. What will happen this week?

1. Stanford will not have a negative play all game.

Why it's preposterous: It's nearly impossible to go an entire game without losing yardage on a single play. Even in last week's shootout against Arizona, Stanford had five plays that lost yardage. And we all know that Notre Dame's defense is an enormous upgrade over Arizona's.

Why it's not: As great as Notre Dame's defense has been (and it's been incredible), the Fighting Irish rank 104th of 120 teams in tackles for loss, averaging just 4.6 per game (for comparison, Stanford averages 8.6). On the flipside, Stanford's offensive line hasn't been quite as dominant as it's been in past years, but the Cardinal still leads the Pac-12 in fewest negative plays at just 4.4 per game. If Josh Nunes gets rid of the ball quickly and Stepfan Taylor continues to fight for every yard, Stanford can avoid negative plays.

2. Everett Golson will be the third-most productive quarterback in the game

Why it's preposterous: Last week, Arizona only needed one quarterback to rack up 491 yards on a conference-record 45 completions. Nunes looked abysmal in his only career road start, whereas Golson is coming off his best performance in a rout of Miami. For the year, Golson has been the best quarterback on these two teams.

Why it's not: Every other game this year, Notre Dame has been forced to switch quarterbacks mid-game. Tommy Rees has come off the bench in the second and fourth games of the season. This is the sixth game of the season. In Rees's appearances he has led Notre Dame to the winning score against Purdue and outperformed Golson in a win over Michigan. Stanford's defense has been comparable to Purdue's and Michigan's, and last year, the Cardinal knocked Rees out of the game and forced Notre Dame to use its backup quarterback.

3. Stepfan Taylor will score two rushing touchdowns

Why it's preposterous: Notre Dame has not allowed a rushing touchdown all year. Yes, you read that right. The Fighting Irish have allowed only three touchdowns of any kind in five games, and no opponent has reached the end zone since September 8th. And in two of those three games, Notre Dame shut down top-10 rushers (Denard Robinson and Le'Veon Bell). Meanwhile, Taylor has only rushed for two touchdowns in a game once this season, and last road game, Stanford didn't score an offensive touchdown.

Why it's not: Taylor has succeeded against Notre Dame, rushing for over 100 yards in each of his past two meetings with the Fighting Irish. And two-touchdown games are nothing new for Taylor; he has nine such games in his career. Stanford's power style is more suited to attacking the Irish defense than the spread attack of Michigan or Navy's triple option, so the Notre Dame defense might not be quite as stingy as the numbers suggest. Plus, you can bet Stanford wants to control the game and run as much as possible in order to stay in the game as much as possible.

4. Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz will each eclipse the 100-yard mark

Why it's preposterous: Toilolo has only two career games with 100 receiving yards. Ertz has just one. Plus, Nunes has had two games this season where he did not even pass for 200 yards. Meanwhile, Notre Dame is one of the best pass defenses in the country, holding opponents to just 183 passing yards per game.

Why it's not: Ty Montgomery is out, meaning Stanford has roughly two viable passing targets: Toilolo and Ertz. True, the Cardinal will hope for some kind of production from Jamal-Rashad Patterson, Drew Terrell, and company, but when push comes to shove, Nunes is going to look for his tight ends. Toilolo and Ertz have been by far his best and favorite targets. Also, Coby Fleener led Stanford in receiving yards against Notre Dame each of the past two years, and the tight ends represent the best matchup for Stanford against the Irish secondary.

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