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Notre Dame Notes: Irish Play Host to Stanford

Michael Mayer

Michael Mayer

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

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We’ve now seen the Irish play five games this season, and if there’s one thing I’ve determined, it’s that they could be a frustrating team to handicap.

The Irish give me 2021 Clemson Tiger vibes (although there’s still time for me to be wrong), as a team that should be better than they are. Some weeks we’ll be prone to give them credit for their work and get absolutely burnt, while other weeks we’ll wildly underestimate them only to eat our words a few hours later.

Last week’s game against BYU felt like an underestimation on my part.

Once ranked as the No. 5 team in the nation, the Irish entered last weekend at 2-2, with a bottom 40 offense and a backup quarterback. Despite playing host to No. 16 BYU, I picked the Cougars and quarterback Jaren Hall (+3.5) to cover against the Irish, only to see the game end with a 28-20 Irish victory.

To BYU’s credit, they still kept the game close. But I wasn’t prepared to see Notre Dame’s Drew Pyne go 22-for-28 passing for 262 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. It defied everything I’ve come to expect from this offense after their first few games, but Pyne has been somewhat #good through three starts.

Now getting a 1-4 Stanford team, I’ll probably be inclined to give Notre Dame some credit at -17 this weekend unless I can find a way to talk myself out of it.

Notre Dame

Drew Pyne now has three starts under his belt. Since taking over for starter Tyler Buchner (378-0-2), Pyne has led the Irish to a 3-0 record and 32.3 points per game. It’s a stark difference from the 15.5 points per game they averaged in Buchner’s two starts, although it should be pointed out that they did face Ohio State on the road in Week 1.

However, looking at Pyne a bit more, the sophomore signal-caller has thrown for 721-9-2 on the season and has yet to throw a pick in any of his three starts. Per PFF, Pyne has completed 71.9% of his passes during that span, ranking 15th among quarterbacks in completion percentage since being named the starter.

Running back Audric Estime has also been a force as of late, rushing for 49-306-3 in Pyne’s starts while adding another four catches for 56 yards.

Audric Estime 2022 Stats

Audric Estime 2022 Stats

It’s possible the Irish have turned the corner with Pyne under center. Since Week 3, Notre Dame’s offense ranks 13th in the nation in success rate (51.1%) and are ninth in pass play success rate (54.7%). Through the first two weeks, they had an offensive success rate of 41.5% and a 41% success rate through the air.

Over that same span, the Irish have also seen their defensive success rate plummet to 35.6% -- ranking 117th in the nation. Playing another game at home this weekend, they’ll now look to limit a Stanford team that has massively underwhelmed on the young season.

Stanford

As previously mentioned, the Cardinal are 1-4 this season. Their win...wait for it...came against COLGATE in Week 1!

Since defeating Colgate, Stanford has proceeded to go winless against USC, Washington, Oregon and Oregon State. Admittedly, that’s a tough stretch of opponents to face, but things don’t appear to be getting any easier this weekend.

To date, the Cardinal offense ranks 74th in the nation in points per game (29.0) and is 53rd in offensive success rate (44.9%). Quarterback Tanner McKee has thrown for 1254-10-5 on the season and is on pace for career-high numbers in the turnover department.

Tanner McKee 2022 Stats

Tanner McKee 2022 Stats

The junior quarterback has also taken 16 sacks on the season, which includes an eight-sack game against Washington and a five-sack game against USC. The Irish, who are tied for 18th in the nation in sacks (15) and have a PFF pass-rush grade of 78.9 (26th) should have plenty of opportunities to get after McKee in this one.

Stanford’s offense has underwhelmed at times, but their defense has struggled mightily all season.

Ranking 111th in the nation in points allowed per game (32.6), the Cardinal also ranks 119th in defensive success rate (48.1%) and are allowing 207 yards per game on the ground. Before last week’s matchup against Oregon State, Stanford had allowed 41, 40 and 45 points to their previous three opponents.

If we’re buying into Notre Dame’s recent offensive success, then there should be a lot the Irish can exploit in this weekend’s matchup, provided they can limit McKee and force him into some turnovers.

Irish Pick ‘Em Predictor Picks

Notre Dame Rushing Yards

This one feels like a slam dunk. The fact this number is so low on a Thursday morning truly surprises me. Over the last three weeks, the Irish have rushed for 187, 287 and 234 yards, averaging 45.7 rush attempts per game. As we just mentioned, the Cardinal are allowing 207 rushing yards per game, and have been one of the worst defensive units in the nation. For this week’s game, the NBC Sports Predictor app maxes out 135+ rushing yards for the Irish. I will happily smash that number.

Notre Dame Rushing Yards: 135+

Notre Dame 2nd Quarter Points

The Irish are 17-point favorites in this one, and shouldn’t struggle to score points in this one. With Pyne as the starter, the Irish are averaging 16.3 points in the first half, and 15.3 points in the second quarter. Against a soft Stanford defense, I think Notre Dame can manage at least two scores before halftime. The recent trend is also favorable.

Notre Dame 2nd Quarter Points: 8-14

The Game

Notre Dame vs. Stanford Week 7 2022

Notre Dame vs. Stanford Week 7 2022

This game opened with Notre Dame laying 15.5 points and has since moved to 17. Only capable of beating Colgate, Stanford’s record ATS is the same as their overall record (1-4). Funny enough, they actually failed to cover at -40 against Colgate, with their first win ATS coming in last week’s 28-27 loss to Oregon State (+4.5). The Irish are 3-2 ATS on the season and 2-1 ATS under Pyne. It’s not a good sign that they’ve struggled to cover at home thus far (1-3), but I’m starting to buy into their recent offensive success. With an improving quarterback, an emerging rushing attack and three straight wins under their belt, I like the Irish to take advantage of a porous defense and grind their way to a victory.

Pick: Notre Dame -17

2022 Picks: 15-21-1