NCAAF Game Preview: Notre Dame vs. Stanford - Date: 11/25/2017 Nov 21, 2017 No. 21 Stanford will try to focus exclusively on No. 8 Notre Dame when the teams play at Stanford on Saturday. However, undivided attention might be impossible, because a game more important to the Cardinal's Pac-12 championship hopes will be taking place 800-plus miles away. Yes, Stanford (8-3, 7-2 Pac-12) will be facing Notre Dame (9-2) in a network-televised game between two ranked foes with Cardinal running back Bryce Love perhaps making his final statement for the Heisman Trophy -- if he plays. All that typically is enough to create tunnel vision, especially since it is the final regular-season game for both teams, with Stanford trying to finish the season unbeaten at home. But the Cardinal's conference title hopes rest with Saturday's game in Seattle between No. 13 Washington State and No. 17 Washington. If Washington wins, Stanford will advance to the Dec. 1 Pac-12 championship to face Pac-12 South champion USC in nearby Santa Clara, Calif. If Washington State beats the Huskies, the Cougars will represent to the Pac-12 North in the title game. Stanford's game and the Washington-Washington State game both start at 5 p. m. local time. "I'm sure we'll be scoreboard watching to a certain degree," Stanford coach David Shaw said after Saturday's 17-14 victory over California. "We can't worry about what happens on somebody else's field. Either we go to the Pac-12 championship game or we don't. " The game at Stanford means more to the Irish. Although a spot in the College Football Playoff seems out of reach for Notre Dame, a victory Saturday would almost guarantee the Irish a berth in a New Year's Six Bowl. Even with Stanford's attention diverted, recent history suggests the Irish will have a tough time. They have lost six of the past eight games against the Cardinal and have not won at Stanford since 2007. Notre Dame is coming off its two worst performances of the season -- a 41-8 loss to Miami that took the Irish out of the CFP picture and a 24-17 home victory over Navy, which held a seven-point lead midway through the third quarter. In both games, quarterback Brandon Wimbush started slowly. He was 2 of 10 with two interceptions in the early going against Miami, and he completed just one of his first five passes against Navy. He became more accurate as the game wore on. "The ball is coming out of his hand better," Irish coach Brian Kelly said, "but he's got to start that way where he's tuned in immediately. So he's going through some mechanical adjustments that are getting better and better, and they showed themselves later in the game. But we've got to see those things happen right away. " Wimbush will get running-game support from Josh Adams, who ranks 14th nationally in rushing yards per game at 121. 5. But Wimbush might be without receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, who is questionable for the game as he goes through concussion protocol. Sports Picks Free. The more important injury issue belongs to Love. He has been bothered by ankle injuries for much of the second half of the season. He was at less than full strength against Cal, and had to be replaced in the fourth quarter. He will probably suit up against Notre Dame, but how much he plays and how effective he will be if he plays remain to be seen. Love still leads the nation in rushing yards per game at 172. 3 while averaging 8. 8 yards per carry. "He's extremely explosive," Kelly said. "Big-time player in the sense that he'll turn a 3-yard run into a 60-yard run; just explosiveness at that position, like probably no one else in the country. " Love rushed for 101 yards against Cal and had his 11th run of 50 yards or more this season, the most in FBS history. "He was in a lot of pain, but once he gets up to 80 or 90 percent, whatever it was, nobody is going to catch him," Shaw said. "So much pride, so much determination. " If Love can't play or Stanford's running game is neutralized, more pressure falls on redshirt freshman quarterback K. J. Costello, who is expected to make his fourth straight start. Kelly was pleased with his team's run defense against Navy, even though the Midshipmen had the ball for 42:42 compared with just 17:18 for the Irish. Navy entered the game ranked No. 1 nationally in rushing (369. 8 yards per game) and ninth in yards per carry (5. 9), but Notre Dame limited the Midshipmen to 277 rushing yards and 3. 8 yards per carry. "We've got to settle in better," Kelly said. "We finished very well, but getting off to a better start when you know you're limited with possessions. I think those are good takeaways for us moving into Stanford. "
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