Expert NCAA Football Picks: Stanford Cardinal at Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Stanford Cardinal at Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Saturday Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m. ET
This is the second week in a row that I have written about Stanford, but it's not because I am a big fan or anything. I write about the three biggest games of the week every week, and this is a lame week, so this game between two Top 10 rivals can't be avoided. Last week almost assured that I would never write about the Cardinal again. I was heavily on their side against Oregon, but they spent much of the game trying hard to lose, and only an odd finish and then overtime got the cover I needed and saved them from my eternal scorn. You only get to disappoint me once - unless you are my beloved Michigan, in which case you can kick my soul repeatedly, and apparently I'll keep coming back for more.
Stanford at Notre Dame Betting Storylines
Brian Kelly earned his money before Notre Dame's last game against Wake Forest. Brandon Wimbush was 3-0 this year and 13-3 overall as a starting QB for the team, but Kelly still benched him and installed Ian Book as the starter. Wimbush, despite the success, was not an explosive player with a firm grasp on the role, so it was a worthy risk, and it paid off handsomely. Book threw for two touchdowns and ran in three more and brought swagger to this offense that hasn't been seen for a while. Now we get to see if he can sustain it and do it against a much higher level of competition. He won't have to do it alone, either. Dexter Williams, the running back who averaged a ridiculous 9.2 yards per carry in backup minutes last year, is back from a four-game suspension and should see the field regularly here. He was penciled in as the clear starter this year, so his return could be significant - and the team needs him to be ready and effective to soften up a Stanford defense that plays heavy.
How you feel about Stanford right now depends on how you view that last game. Are you impressed that they showed a ton of fight, coming back from a 24-7 halftime deficit, adjusting to what Oregon was doing very well, capitalizing on a sloppy fumble, and ultimately coming out on top in overtime? Or are you concerned that they were down so much early on in the first place against a team that is in a much different place on the spectrum of building a championship team? It's all a matter of perspective. Regardless of how you view the game, though, you can't help but be concerned about Bryce Love. The running back was among the Heisman favorites heading into the season, but after missing week three with an injury he added just 89 yards last week. That's a decent outing for a mortal RB but barely a warmup for him at his best. Notre Dame is likely going to be running the ball heavily, so Stanford would ideally be able to match that, and they can't do that very well if Love isn't ready. Reports are that his health is returning, but it will be important to watch for any news that leaks out heading up to the game.
Stanford at Notre Dame Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Notre Dame favored by as low as 3.5 points, but that has widely moved up to six in early action. Action has been evenly split between the sides, so we are unlikely to see a move through the key number of seven without a major development. The total opened at 52 and has slipped up to 54 early on.
Stanford is 6-1 ATS in their last seven games overall and has the same record in their last seven against teams with winning records. They are, however, just 4-9 ATS in their last 13 games following an ATS win. Notre Dame is 5-2 ATS in their last seven games in September, but just 1-4 ATS in their last five at home and 2-6 ATS in their last eight against teams with winning records. Notre Dame has won 18 of 31 lifetime meetings between the teams, but Stanford has won the last three.
Stanford at Notre Dame Predictions and Picks
I had a lot of faith in Stanford last week, and they didn't let me down - narrowly. I'm going to go right back to that well this week. Notre Dame hasn't really played anyone - Michigan was far from ready for prime time in the opener, and since then the schedule has been weak. The Irish desperately needs this game as they don't have another ranked opponent on the schedule. They will know that, and it will be added pressure for a tenuous QB situation. Stanford is feisty on both sides of the ball and frankly just feels like the better team right now - as long as they don't play like they did in the first half against Oregon again. It really feels like being given this many points with Stanford is something that can't be refused.
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