Stanford will attempt to end its season by denying No. 6 Notre Dame an opportunity to reach the College Football Playoff when the host Cardinal bid to upset the Fighting Irish on Saturday night.
Coming off a 41-11 drubbing at home in its annual Big Game against rival California, the Cardinal (3-8) will be seeking a seventh win over a ranked Notre Dame team in the 35th edition of the rivalry.
Stanford was in a similar situation, albeit it as the 13th-ranked team in the country, when it knocked the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish out of the national championship picture with a 38-36 win on the Cardinal’s field in 2015.
Surely, a Stanford upset would be a much more surprising outcome six years later, with Notre Dame (10-1) possibly a win away from landing one of the four coveted spots in the playoff.
Notre Dame’s chances of moving up from sixth are equally dependent upon at least two teams ahead of it losing, and that’s assured before season’s end.
No. 2 Ohio State and No. 5 Michigan also duel on Saturday eight hours before Notre Dame-Stanford. Then, next week, No. 1 Georgia and No. 3 Alabama are set to meet in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
The Notre Dame game plan remains the same — win convincingly and let the chips fall where they may.
Senior cornerback TaRiq Bracy, who grew up just east of Stanford in Milpitas, Calif., is fully aware of the Cardinal’s history against Notre Dame and the significance of what a season-ending headline-grabber would mean to the Stanford program.
“I’ve got a bunch of family and friends texting me excited,” Bracy said. “You have to take each week as a new opponent and a new challenge. You know I have the utmost respect for Stanford and I’m just getting ready to play.”
Notre Dame has solidified its position in the playoff chase with six straight wins, the last three by 34-6, 28-3 and 55-0 counts.
Stanford, on the other hand, has lost six straight and been on the wrong end of similar scores in its last three outings — losing 52-7, 35-14 and 41-11.
Cardinal coach David Shaw believes Notre Dame is coming to town at just the right time for his team, which could use an injection of energy at the end of a losing season.
“Hopefully the Golden Domers bring out the best in our football team, and for the first time in over a month we see the best of Stanford football,” he noted. “Notre Dame is a rival, and we’ve fared well against them over the last decade-plus. I don’t need to have any rah-rah speeches this week.”
Stanford returned quarterback Tanner McKee from injury last week, and while his 239 yards on 26-for-44 might have looked impressive, it was outweighed by a 2-to-0 interception-to-touchdown ratio.
The Cardinal are already assured of a third consecutive season without a bowl. They had gotten invitations in each of the previous 10 years under Shaw and Jim Harbaugh, winning six of those games.
–Field Level Media