On Saturday in South Bend, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish host the Stanford Cardinal for their annual one-on-one, and those teams are heading in opposite directions.
Head coach David Shaw’s Stanford come into this contest losing four straight, with three of those losses to Pac-12 ranked teams. On the other hand, head coach Marcus Freeman’s Notre Dame has won three straight, including last week against No. 16 BYU, to recover from an 0-2 start to the season.
Historically, Notre Dame holds the head-to-head advantage in this rivalry. The Fighting Irish have won 21 games in total to Stanford’s 13 and have won three in a row.
Total less than 53.5 points (-110)
While there are definite concerns to be had about this Stanford defense, I wonder if the unit is as bad as bettors currently perceive it.
Of course, Stanford ranks 100th in defensive efficiency this week and ranks 111th out of 131 teams in points allowed per game. However, these results have been met with high-level opposition that is expected to dominate. In Stanford’s last four games alone, they’ve given up 38.5 points per game against offenses that average an offensive efficiency rating of 18.25, per footballoutsiders.com.
The game I’m focusing on is last week’s game against Oregon State, which has the most comparable offense to Notre Dame. Entering this week, the Beavers rank 48th nationally in offensive efficiency, while Notre Dame leads at 31st.
I’d be quite surprised if Stanford gives up 40 points or more like they did against USC, Oregon and Washington, whose net offensive efficiency rating stands at 8.33, about 23 places ahead of the classification of Notre Dame. That makes it a good low buy point on the Stanford defense.
However, I don’t know how much Stanford’s offense creates against a strong Notre Dame defense. In the same way, it’s a low buy point on Stanford’s defense, it’s a high sell point on their offense for me. Over the past four weeks, Stanford has scored 26 points per game. However, the average defensive efficiency rating of these four teams is 65.5.
Now Stanford must face a Notre Dame defense that ranks 14th nationally in defensive efficiency and limited a top California team to just 17 points nearly a month ago. Additionally, Notre Dame’s defense held a powerful BYU offense — 17th in offensive efficiency — to just 20 points last week.
So unless he comes in the trash with Notre Dame ahead by a mile, I’ll be surprised if Stanford can actually move the ball against the best defense he’s faced all season.
While that total is likely determined by how many points Notre Dame has accumulated, I think this game is turning out to be a low-scoring game.