Stanford is 4-7. Last week they fell to Cal at home 24-20 for their 3rd straight loss. There is just one common opponent on the schedule: back in week 2, the Cardinal lost at USC 45-20.
Last year in South Bend the Irish prevailed 38-17, but a Brian Kelly team has never won in Palo Alto, the last Notre Dame victory there was in 2007.
This is a team that has had a rash of injuries: 8 players out, 7 others missing significant playing time. Along the offensive line the Cardinal at one point was down to 6 healthy players and they have been forced to start 3 true freshmen.
Senior Quarterback KJ Costello is again out with injury so Junior David Mills will get the start. Pretty much a passer only in a pass first offense, Mills has played well in relief of Costello hitting on 67% of his passes good for 9 touchdowns against 5 interceptions.
Sophomore Michael Wilson is the leading overall yardage receiver with 46 catches good for 546 yards and 4 TDs closely followed by Mackey Award Semi-finalist Tight end, Colby Parkinson who has 45 catches good for 552 yards and 1 TD. 6-4 Sophomore Simi Fehoko who has 6 touchdowns, only has 18 Catches but has 503 yards, good for a 27.3 yard average per catch.
Gone are the days of Christian McCaffrey, Bryce Love and “Touchdown” Tommy Vardell because the Stanford running game has hit on hard times. Perhaps attributable to the inexperience on the offensive line, this rushing attack is averaging just 104 yards per game, which ranks them at 123rd nationally. Senior Cameron Scarlett leads the team with a 4.2 yard per carry average and 6 TDs.
Stanford is 110th in scoring offense at 21.5 points per game.
Defensively, Senior Linebacker Andrew Pryts leads the Cardinal in tackles and Senior linebacker Casey Toohill is the leader in sacks and tackles for loss, on a defense that is giving up 428 yards per game and 28 points. Sanford has been a little better against the run than the pass, they are allowing an average of 281 yards through the air per game.
With the injuries and the losing season, Stanford is playing lots of Freshman. 15 of them saw action last week against Cal.
Even the Stanford kicker, Jet Toner is out with injury, so freshman Ryan Sanborn has taken over and he is 11-11 on extra points and 6-8 on field goals, with a long of 48 yards.
The weather forecast in Palo Alto for Saturday calls for a high of 52, a 90% chance of rain and 15-25 mph winds. Not optimum for the ND passing game.
This is it for this Stanford team, at 4-7 they are going to miss bowl season for the first time since 2008, so they have a choice: play hard to try and salvage something from their season against the Irish, or phone it in.
David Shaw teams have always maintained their reputation for hard play, so don't expect this team to "phone it in". Injuries though have been disruptive to The Cardinal however and they will face a very difficult task to stay with the Irish, who for the last month have been playing their best football.
TV coverage is on FOX and begins at 4PM South Bend time.