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Irish Head to The Farm with Playoff Hopes in Mind

Saturday’s dominating 55-0 win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets marked the tenth win for the Fighting Irish. This is Brian Kelly’s fifth season in a row with 10 plus wins, and as of now, the Irish are one of two Division 1 programs to have at least 10 wins every year since 2017, the other being Alabama. The game was never in doubt with the Irish dominating both sides of the ball from the opening kick. Sure, the first drive only ended in a field goal, but after that the Irish put up another three touchdowns in the first quarter alone. It was a well-rounded performance, dominant enough to allow for a good deal of Notre Dame players to get action on the field. 

Starting quarterback Jack Coan finished the game completing 15 of his 20 pass attempts for 285 yards and two touchdowns – all in the first half. Coan did lead the first drive for the Irish in the third quarter but then was relieved of his duties for Freshman quarterback Tyler Buchner. Buchner was only able to complete three of his six passing attempts but tallied up another 67 yards on the ground. The three-headed monster at running back, consisting of Kyren Williams, Logan Diggs, and Audric Estime, was a sight to see. Williams was responsible for 11 carries totaling 56 yards and two touchdowns, but Diggs and Estime showed a lot of promise for the future of the Notre Dame ground game. Showing a lot of emotion post-game, it seems relatively safe to assume that that was the last game that we as Irish fans will get to see Williams in Notre Dame Stadium as an early exit to the NFL draft is likely for this stud running back. The Irish passing attack was extremely spread out as well with 11 players getting at least one reception. Williams led the way in targets with four, while Kevin Austin Jr. and Michael Mayer each added on 89 and 86 yards respectively. It was a pleasant sight to see Mayer get involved with the passing game again, as he has flown relatively under the radar in Notre Dame’s previous few outings.

Bo Bauer, once again, led the way in tackles for the Irish defense, finishing the game with five, but Isaiah Foskey was undoubtedly the hero on this side of the ball. Foskey forced two turnovers, leading to a Jack Kiser interception and a Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa scoop and score. The Irish finished the game leading in all major statistical categories – total yards, passing yards, rushing yards, and yards per play.

This Saturday will mark Notre Dame’s final game of the regular season as the Irish travel to Palo Alto to take on the 3-8 Stanford Cardinal. With a very unintimidating record, it seems as though Stanford always raises to the occasion and gives the Irish fits, especially when playing in Stanford Stadium. The Cardinal are coming off a 41-11 loss to California, but do have an impressive, come from behind, overtime win over the then 3rd ranked Oregon Ducks. Surprisingly though, that was the last game that the Cardinal have won, coming back on October 2nd. Since then, Stanford has given up an average of 35 points per game while only scoring an average of just over 14. 

The Cardinal are led by Sophomore quarterback Tanner McKee, who had his first game back after a leg injury, this past weekend against Cal. McKee has put up middle of the pack stats throughout this 2021 campaign, throwing 14 touchdowns but adding in seven interceptions along the way in the nine games that he has appeared in. Stanford’s leading rushers, Nathanial Peat and Austin Jones, have combined to put up 744 yards on the ground; that’s 184 yards less than Kyren Williams has alone. The Cardinal passing game has been more productive and efficient with tight end Benjamin Yurosek and wide receiver Elijah Higgins leading the way. Yurosek has hauled in 566 yards through the air with two touchdowns while Higgins has added 491 air yards and four touchdowns himself.

On the other side of the ball, the Stanford defense has put up a team total of 14 sacks and five interceptions on the year, two of which coming from cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly. Although the Cardinal was able to put up an impressive performance against Oregon, the remainder of their season has been less than stellar. With the way the Irish have been playing in recent games, a similar approach as to that taken against Georgia Tech, should yield a comparable outcome. If the Irish can break a few big plays on the ground, I don’t expect this game to be close.  Notre Dame has outscored their opponents 117-9 in their last three contests, and I expect the offensive production to continue. The defense has been firing on all cylinders and I would be shocked if there was a letdown during the last game of the regular season. Notre Dame is entering this final matchup as a 19 (or so) point favorite, a similar spread as to what was given for Georgia Tech. Although Stanford always finds a way to put up a fight against the Irish, Notre Dame’s continual improvements and overall higher level of talent should, yet again, prevail. I’m predicting Notre Dame to improve to 11-1 with a final score of 42-13.

A Look at Notre Dame’s Opponents:

Florida State: 5-6 overall, beat Boston College 26-23

Toledo: 6-5 overall, beat Ohio 35-23

Purdue: 7-4 overall, beat Northwestern 32-14

Wisconsin: 8-3 overall, beat Nebraska 35-28

Cincinnati: 11-0 overall, beat SMU 48-14

Virginia Tech: 5-6 overall, lost to Miami (FL) 38-26

USC: 4-6 overall, lost to UCLA 62-33

North Carolina: 6-5 overall, beat Wofford 34-14

Navy: 2-8 overall, lost to East Carolina 38-35

Virginia: 6-5 overall, lost to Pittsburgh 48-38

Georgia Tech: 3-8 overall, lost to Notre Dame 55-0

Stanford: 3-8 overall, lost to California 41-11

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