Know Your Notre Dame Football Enemy: The Stanford Cardinal

SAN ANTONIO, TX - DECEMBER 28: K.J. Costello /

The Notre Dame football team will host Heisman Trophy candidate Bryce Love and the Stanford Cardinal to finish off the month of September.

Over the next couple of weeks, we are looking at all 12 teams on the 2018 Notre Dame football schedule with the intent of familiarizing you with what the Irish are up against.

Next up: The Stanford Cardinal

2017 Synopsis

Stanford finished the 2017 campaign with a 9-5 record, including a 39-37 loss to TCU in the Alamo Bowl. Running back Bryce Love finished second in the nation in rushing, posting 2,118 yards. He also finished second to Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Who did they lose?

Their only real impactful personnel losses were on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive tackle Harrison Phillips’ departure leaves a sizeable void on the Cardinal defensive line. They also lost linebacker Peter Kalambayi and safety Justin Reid to the NFL Draft. That’s one NFL draft pick gone at each level of the defense.

Who do they return?

For starters, Love is back — and he’s a handful on his own. They also return starting quarterback K.J. Costello and four offensive lineman with significant starting experience. Costello will have the luxury of having his top four receivers from 2017 with him as well. That group is led by JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who caught 48 balls for 781 yards and nine touchdowns last year.

The defense has a lot of question marks. The top returner on that side of the ball is linebacker Bobby Okereke — an All-Pac-12 honorable mention pick last season. This unit will need time to gel in order to resemble anything close to the stout Stanford defenses we’ve seen in recent years.

Why should Notre Dame be worried?

The Cardinal offense looks like it can score with anyone on paper. They have an experienced and capable signal-caller, a solid line and all kinds of weapons at receiver and tight end. Oh — and they have Bryce Love. Stanford probably won’t struggle to move the chains very often — even against Notre Dame.

Why should Notre Dame not be worried?

The Irish have arguably as many weapons on offense as Stanford does. As mentioned, they’ll be facing a Cardinal defense that probably won’t resemble the Stanford defensive units we’re used to seeing from David Shaw-coached teams. Notre Dame’s defense should be able to get more defensive stops against the Stanford offense than vice versa. It could very well look the exact opposite of last year’s 38-20 Stanford win — perhaps a little higher-scoring.

Key Player for Stanford

K.J. Costello — Stanford can’t afford to waste possessions. The Irish are going to key on love and force Costello to beat them — and he’s capable of doing so. If he’s able to consistently find his receivers and move the ball through the air while not turning it over, the Irish could be in trouble. He dropped four touchdown passes on Notre Dame in 2017.

Next: Know Your Enemy: Wake Forest

Key Player for Notre Dame

The Offensive Line — The Irish struggled to sustain drives last year against Stanford. Both of the touchdowns scored in the 2017 game were off explosive plays — 83 and 75-yard touchdown passes. The Notre Dame line needs to dominate up front and keep the chains moving in order to keep that high-powered Stanford offense off the field.