This is going to be a key matchup every week, especially considering how much the Irish offensive identity is composed of running the football. Thankfully, Stanford lost first-team All PAC–12 defensive lineman Harrison Phillips and his 103 tackles from a season ago. He was a monster in the middle who Notre Dame thankfully doesn’t need to worry about.
Stanford’s defensive trenches are loaded with inexperience and players needing to step up. The man to watch for will be redshirt sophomore Jovan Swann, who had 23 tackles and 0.5 sacks heading into 2018 and so far this year already has four tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Redshirt junior Dylan Jackson has two full playing seasons under his belt but only 51 tackles and 0.5 sacks to show for it.
An important note for the Irish offensive line is the right guard position. Senior Trevor Ruhland started last week vs Wake Forest in place for junior Tommy Kraemer due to a sprained ankle. Moving forward, we could see both rotating at the position until Kraemer is 100%. This makes the right side of the line slightly less experienced and a possible area to watch for on Saturday if Ruhland gets the start again or takes the majority of the snaps.
I’m not saying the Irish will run straight down Stanford’s throat, but the talent of the Cardinal defensive line isn’t what it has been in the past and Notre Dame should be able to take advantage of it. With the speed and power the backfield has in Armstrong, Jones Jr., Davis, and Williams, we might see another outstanding rushing performance for the third week in a row.