Stanford isn’t bowl-eligible but the Cardinal get what in essence is their bowl game Saturday afternoon when they finish their season at home against No. 16 Notre Dame.
Stanford (4-7) was assured of its first postseason-less campaign in 11 years when it watched rival California rally for a 24-20 triumph last Saturday in Berkeley.
The loss was Stanford’s third in a row, and relegated this week’s matchup with Notre Dame to nothing more than a potential lasting memory for the graduating seniors.
Cardinal coach David Shaw hopes his guys have saved their best for last.
“There are times where we look like we can’t be stopped (offensively): Running it, throwing it, making plays, making great decisions, getting great releases,” he told reporters this week. “And then times where we struggled. Excited about having an opportunity to put it all together on national TV against an outstanding opponent and hopefully play our best football game of the year.”
It might take more than that to beat Notre Dame (9-2), which still has a lot at stake on the regular season’s final weekend.
Already assured of a bowl game, the Irish hope a third straight 10-win season is enough to land them in a New Year’s Six bowl game.
The Irish also seek their first win at Stanford since 2007 to end a five-game losing streak there.
“Obviously we have not won at Stanford in quite some time,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly reminded the media earlier this week. “So the focus is on playing well on the road against an opponent that certainly has our respect. As I mentioned, they have beaten us at Stanford Stadium and certainly have beaten us (in South Bend). So our guys will have to play well.”
Jimmy Clausen gave Notre Dame a big advantage over the Stanford tandem of Tavita Pritchard and T.C. Ostrander when the Irish last won at Stanford, 21-14 in 2007.
The quarterback matchup a dozen years later appears to be as much of a mismatch.
Notre Dame is led by Ian Book, a senior who needs 97 yards passing to surpass last season’s total of 2,628, and one rushing touchdown to top last year’s total of four.
A native of the Sacramento suburb El Dorado Hills, Book will be making his second Northern California return. He threw one pass — and completed it for 12 yards — in Notre Dame’s 38-20 loss at Stanford in 2017.
Stanford is expected to counter with sophomore Davis Mills, who has thrown as many interceptions (four) as touchdown pass (four) in losses to Washington State and Cal the last two weeks.
The Cardinal had hoped to get star quarterback K.J. Costello back for one final game at Stanford, but Shaw ruled him out Monday with a continuing thumb injury.
Notre Dame, playing at home, won last year’s meeting 38-17, with Book (278 yards, four touchdowns) out-gunning Costello (174 yards, one TD).
–Field Level Media