The Stanford Offense ranks 83rd in the country with 385 yards per game. Balance is the name of the game for the Cardinal. 154.8 yards rushing and 230.2 yard passing make up the average. Stepfan Taylor leads the Cardinal running game. The passing game is lead by first-year starter Josh Nunes. The Cardinal Offense has been inconsistent, scoring 20, 50, 21, 13 and 54 for 31.6 point average. Here are the key players that Notre Dame’s defense must be aware of on Saturday afternoon:
Nunes entered this season with a difficult task, replacing NFL number one pick Andrew Luck. After beating out fellow teammate Brent Nottingham, Nunes has had a good start to the 2012. Nunes has thrown for 1,145 yards, 8 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. One down fall so far is his inaccuracy. Through 5 games, Nunes has an 54.1% average. His flaws are not from a lack of talent. Any one who has watched Nunes play knows that he possesses a strong arm and excellent footwork. His inexperience is what is holding him back right now. However, with each game Nunes will continue to improve as a Quarterback.
Taylor carries the load for the Stanford offense. He has carried the ball 119 times for 555 yards. Against USC, Taylor rushed 27 times for 153 yards. Against Washington, he ran 21 times for 71 yards. The differences in these performances are critical. In the former, Stanford upset the Trojans. The Cardinal lost in the later. Therefore, Stanford will go as far as Taylor will take them. He possesses great speed, strength and vision. He will need to use all three of these skills against a stingy Notre Dame rush defense.
Ertz is the top receiver for the Cardinal this year. List as a tight end, Ertz is a huge target at 6-6″ 252 pounds. He is split out wide frequently in this offense. This creates match up problems for cornerbacks and safeties. Just because he is a Tight End does not mean he is not super athletic either. He looks like a fluid wide receiver when running routes, catching the ball and running after the catch. This match up difficult is similar to that of Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert. Ertz has caught 21 balls for 316 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Notre Dame enters this game only giving up 4 points per game in their last three games. Stanford features an above offensive line with adequate position talent. However, it would appear that Stanford plays right into Notre Dame’s strengths. They do not have a lot athleticism on the outside and their attack is started by the running game. Notre Dame’s strength is stopping the running. Through five games, Notre Dame has only 106.8 yards per game (and that total is slightly skewed by Navy’s total). It would seem likely that Notre Dame would be able to force Stanford to be one dimensional.