As the No. 17 Stanford Cardinal prepare for meeting with the No. 7 Notre Dame fighting Irish this weekend, SB Nation's Stanford blog, Rule of Tree, sat down with our Notre Dame blog, One Foot Down, for a question and answer session heading into their matchup.
Most Cardinal fans are familiar with Manti Te'o. Who are some of the other big names to watch on the stout Irish defense?
The strength of the Irish defense resides on the defensive line. Sophomore defensive end Stephon Tuitt is probably the most physically gifted athlete on defense outside of Te'o. He's 6'6, 303 pounds, and runs like a gazelle. He took a fumble back 77 yards against Navy and outran their entire offense. He was quiet against Miami but needs to have a good game against Stanford if the Irish want to win on Saturday.
The other big name is OLB/DE Prince Shembo. He's been maybe Notre Dame's best pass rusher this season. Stanford's offensive line is a stiff test, but he'll be asked to get in Nunes's face so he can't stand in the pocket and wait for his big targets to get open down field.
How do you expect the Irish to attack a Stanford defense coming off its worst performance of the season?
It's hard to tell, actually. I'm sure Kelly would love to run the ball in order to take some of the pressure off of Golson, but I don't know if that's realistic against the Stanford front seven. The Cardinal secondary has given up a lot of yards, but with a young quarterback and young receiving corps, I don't know if Notre Dame is in a position to take advantage of it.
I think we'll see Kelly test the waters in the run game in the first drive or two. If the Irish can move the ball on the ground, fantastic. If not, then I think Kelly will put the game into Golson's hands, for better or for worse. Either way, I think the Irish will try to spread the field to neutralize the Stanford linebackers a bit and maybe get them into a nickel package. Ramming the ball into that defense seems like a losing battle, but spreading the field might open things up a bit.
You can check out the entire Q&A here. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. PT with coverage on NBC.