Stanford is currently ranked 42nd in scoring defense giving up 21.8 points per game, ranked 6th in rushing defense only giving up 77.2 rushing yards per game, and ranked 117th (out of 124 schools) in pass defense giving up 299.4 passing yards per game. Overall, Stanford ranks 54th in total defense on the season, while opposing teams average 376.6 yards per game.
A 6’3’’ 242 pound inside linebacker (moved to outside occasionally) and is the leader of this defense. Some even say he is the leader of this team. Skov has recorded 26 total tackles this year, and 2.5 tackles for loss. Reads plays well, but can tend to over pursue especially on isolation plays. He is the reason why this defense is so good against the run anchoring the defense at middle linebacker. Again let’s go back to last year when Skov destroyed Notre Dame’s offensive line the entire game. His pass rush is above average and relies on strength and grit to get to the quarterback. Also, Skov is ranked the 4th best senior middle linebacker for the NFL draft.
The 6’4’’ 248 pound outside linebacker/defensive end, that also plays inside because of his good size. He is a sure tackler that rarely misses unless the running back is just that much faster than he is. An excellent pass rusher that uses his hands very well to get off blocks. We should remember that last year Thomas wreaked havoc in Notre Dame’s backfield both on the run and pass. He leads the Cardinal in tackles this year with 31 total. Thomas also has 6 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 1 interception. After shredding his ACL last year it appears to be that he is back. On a side note he is ranked as the 4th best senior outside linebacker for the NFL draft.
The 5’11’’ 205 pound sophomore safety that is a dim bright spot in the Cardinal pass defense. He is second on the team in tackles with 30, which is a testament to how this guy fly’s to the ball. Richards has also recorded 3 tackles for loss, 7 passes broken up, and 2 interceptions on the year. He is still a young guy and he tends to dive for a tackle instead of staying on his feet and using proper technique, but that is happening less and less as the season goes on. Since Stanford’s run defense is so stout the safety’s can play a good distance away from the line of scrimmage. Still at times Richard will fly up to stop the run. Notre Dame could counter this with play action after trying to establish a running game.
Overall, Stanford will not let you run the football. They held USC to an abysmal 26 yards rushing. If Golson can be as accurate as he was last week, Coach Kelly could open up the offense even more and let the guy go to work. Arizona scored a lot of points on Stanford with a dual threat quarterback, so I think it is very possible to open up the passing game so much that the running game will be open eventually.