Stanford Cardinal Face Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Regular Season Finale

PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 18: Bryce Love /

The Stanford Cardinal are set to face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at home, but will likely have attention on the scoreboard.

Destiny is out of the Stanford Cardinal’s hands in the Pac-12 North race. The Cardinal did their part last week by defeating the Cal Bears in the Big Game. Stanford squeaked out a close win to keep hold of the Axe for the eighth-straight year.

Pressure now turns to Washington State, as the team faces rival Washington in the Apple Cup. The Cougars must win to win the Pac-12 North. If unsuccessful, Stanford will face USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

With both Stanford and Notre Dame out of the College Football Playoff picture, implications remain for both teams. The Irish hope to at the very least make one of the New Year’s six bowls. For the Cardinal, a Heisman hopeful has one last opportunity to shine in perhaps his final home game.

Stanford Cardinal Football
Stanford Cardinal Football /

Stanford Cardinal Football

Bryce Love drives the Cardinal offense. His explosiveness leaves defenders in the dust, shedding off would-be tacklers into the end zone. Last week, Love set an FBS-record with 11 touchdown runs of 50-plus yards or more. The touchdown also proved to be the difference in the win over Cal.

Health is a current issue for Love as the running back is not at full strength. An ankle injury against Oregon prevented the tailback from playing against Oregon State, and limited his time against Washington State.

Love did run off a long touchdown run against the Cougars but could not get going after.

Despite seeing his streak of long runs for a touchdown end against Washington, he made his presence known. Love single-handily led the Cardinal offense to defeat the Huskies and end their College Football Playoff aspirations.

Love’s status is unknown for the game against the Irish after injuring his ankle again last week. He will undoubtedly make an effort should he dress up to add to his Heisman resume. With a primetime matchup against eighth-ranked Notre Dame, he will give his all even if he is not 100 percent.

Inconsistency best describes Notre Dame as the regular season concludes. After a close loss to Georgia in their second game, Notre Dame rolled off seven-straight victories. Wins against eleventh-ranked USC and fourteenth-ranked NC State vaulted Notre Dame into the playoff picture.

However, a crushing loss on the road to Miami promptly ended the discussion of Notre Dame making an appearance in the playoff. The Irish were overwhelmed from the start by a hostile atmosphere as the Hurricanes took care of business.

A hangover occurred last week for Notre Dame at home as Navy almost came away with a victory. Navy held the advantage through about three quarters as both teams went to the fourth quarter tied at 17. Notre Dame scored the only touchdown in the fourth to secure the win.

Quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who can use his mobility to extend plays, will lead Notre Dame. Wimbush has thrown 14 touchdowns, and ran for another 14 scores this season. After a down season last year, the future appears bright for Notre Dame to remain relevant in the coming seasons with Wimbush under center.

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Stanford’s defense certainly should jump on Notre Dame’s offensive line early as Wimbush has struggled to get going first. His last two starts significantly affected the game plan for the Irish and allowed opponents to capitalize.

The Irish also feature a strong running back in Josh Adams, who has over 1,300 rushing yards this season. Stanford has seen a heavy dose of powerful tailbacks this season from non-conference and Pac-12 teams.

Containment has held steady for the Cardinal defense, preventing those running backs from being game-changers.

Wimbush could be without a top wide receiver, Equanimeous St. Brown, who is in a concussion protocol. The Cardinal secondary must still be aware of Chase Claypool, who has 28 receptions this season.

K.J. Costello will likely make his fourth-straight start as he appears to have taken the starting quarterback job outright. He finished last week with 185 yards passing with one touchdown but also threw one interception.

The Cardinal offense could be in trouble if Love does not play. Stanford is entirely different without the presence of a running game. Costello is useful in the air, but his arm cannot carry the team to a win. Cameron Scarlett is a bruiser at tailback but lacks the explosiveness seen by Love.

Last season, Stanford edged Notre Dame out on the road for a 17-10 win. Love scored the game-winning touchdown with under five minutes to play.

Next: Cal Falls to Stanford For Eighth Straight Time

Scoreboard watching could be happening with Stanford players on the sidelines, as their tilt with Notre Dame and the Apple Cup both begin at 5 pm. In the end, the Cardinal could be celebrating a berth to the conference championship or await their fate for a bowl game.

No matter who suits up on Saturday, an intense contest is expected as both teams would like to end the regular season on a high note. The rivalry has seen plenty of controversies in recent years.