Preview: Stanford Cardinal Offense


It’s finally time for Notre Dame to show the country how good they really are when they play their most difficult game to date Saturday against Stanford.

After playing four mediocre teams, the Irish will finally get a crack at playing against a ranked opponent in no. 14 Stanford. Notre Dame is coming off a sloppy performance against Syracuse winning 31-15 while Stanford squeaked away a win at Washington taking it 20-13. In one of the more anticipated match-ups of the week, Notre Dame has a chance to solidify its argument for being in the College Football Playoffs at the end of the season.

Both teams are scoring over 27 points per game, and both teams have top five defenses in least amount of points allowed. This game has all the elements involved to be one of the best games of the year. Last year, the Cardinal got the best of the Irish at Stanford winning by just a touchdown, and with quarterback Kevin Hogan leading the Cardinal again this year, there’s no question that the Irish defense will try to redeem themselves from last year’s performance.

In terms of the Cardinal offensive line, Notre Dame will be dealing with a pretty experienced line that consists of junior tackle Andrus Peat, who is a preseason first team All-American and Outland Trophy watch list, and junior center Graham Shuler, who is on the Rimington Trophy watch list. The other three starting offensive line all saw plenty of playing time last season competing with one of the better rushing attacks in the nation last year. So far this season, the offensive line has only given up six sacks, but it hasn’t helped the run game all that much ranking 71st in the country gaining just 165.5 yards per game.

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Speaking of which, their running back group consists of a three back rotation in junior Remound Wright, junior Barry Sanders and senior Kelsey Young. While none of the three backs have scored a touchdown this season, they all pick up pretty good yardage per carry. Between all three backs, the trio picks up almost six yards per carry. So, regardless of how many points the backfield produces, the Irish should not take the Cardinal’s running game lightly. Even as just a change of pace attack, these running backs all have the potential to make big plays.

Now besides quarterback Kevin Hogan, the workhorse of Stanford’s offense is senior wide receiver Ty Montgomery. The 2013 consensus All-American is undoubtedly the engine of the offense picking up over 1,000 scrimmage yards to go along with 14 total touchdowns last season. This year, he’s already made his mark leading the team in receiving hauling in 26 catches for 275 yards and four total touchdowns. Montgomery reminds me of Seattle Seahawks’ receiver Percy Harvin because he can do it all just like Harvin. He can line up out wide, in the slot and head coach David Shaw lines him up in the backfield. Montgomery, Montgomery, Montgomery. That’s all every defensive player should be thinking about heading into Saturday.

The other Cardinal receivers shouldn’t be left unaccounted for, however. Junior Devon Cajuste and sophomore tight end Austin Hooper have put up solid numbers as well. Hooper is second on the team in receptions and receiving yards catching 15 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown. Cajuste has 11 receptions for 155 yards and is second on the team with three touchdown grabs.

Mr. Kevin Hogan is obviously the other star player that can cause havoc offensively in Notre Dame Stadium. 10-2 against ranked opponents, Hogan is no stranger to winning games when the pressure is on. He is on every possible watch list for quarterbacks, and he earns all of his accolades due to his ability to just flat-out win games. He doesn’t post big numbers statistically, but if you watch him play, there’s a tenacity that he carries that pushes the rest of his teammates to victory. So far this season, Hogan has completed an outstanding 71% of his passes to go for 883 yards and eight touchdowns and two scores on the ground.

The one weakness that has hurt Stanford, as of late, has been their inability to protect the football and convert in the red zone. In just four games, the Cardinal have committed nine turnovers that have come from the running backs and Hogan fumbling the ball and throwing a couple of bad passes. In terms of redzone success, the Cardinal have struggled in two of their more notable games in USC and Washington. Against the Trojans, Stanford was in the endzone nine times, and they were only able to come away with a field goal and a touchdown. Against the Huskies, Stanford have six redzone tries and only converted two touchdowns.

With Notre Dame only allowing 11.5 points per game, Domers should feel confident about their chances of stopping the Cardinal offense in the red zone.

In order to win, Notre Dame’s front seven needs to apply consistent pressure and force Hogan to make mistakes. Safety Austin Collinsworth is back this weekend, so the secondary is near full strength for the Irish. Regardless of what happens, this is going to be a great game.