The first meeting for these two teams was the 1925 Rose Bowl Game, when Knute Rockne and the Four Horseman defeated Pop Warner and Stanford, 27-10. Rockne was inducted in the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 2014, while Warner will be inducted later this year.
Last week, Stanford played in perhaps the game of the year so far this season with a 38-31 win over Oregon. The Cardinal trailed 24-7 late in the third quarter and 31-28 with a minute left in the game, but recovered a late fumble and kicked a field goal as time expired to send it to overtime. Stanford scored in overtime and held the Ducks out of the endzone for the victory.
Running back Bryce Love is the focal point of the Cardinal offense, but quarterback K.J. Costello has stepped up in 2018. The junior QB has 1,056 yards and 10 touchdowns compared to just three interceptions. Costello has had a great connection with senior wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who won Rose Bowl Game Pac-12 Player of the Week back in week one. Arcega-Whiteside has 17 catches this season for 408 yards, or almost 40 percent of Costello’s passing yards, and seven touchdowns. Costello also has a couple of giant tight ends, junior Kaden Smith (6-5, 252) and sophomore Colby Parkinson (6-7, 240), who have combined for 26 catches, 361 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensively, the Cardinal rank 10th in scoring defense, allowing just 13.5 points per game. They have had to replace plenty on the defensive line in the last few years and may not be as stout against the rush as they were in year’s past, but the Cardinal secondary is stepping up. Sophomore cornerback Paulson Adedo leads the country with 11 pass breakups, while senior Alameen Murphy and junior Malik Antoine have two interceptions each. Senior linebackers Bobby Okereke and Joey Alfieri have 4.5 tackles for loss to lead the team.
Notre Dame made a big change on offense last week. Despite a 3-0 start, head coach Brian Kelly named junior Ian Book the starting quarterback over Brandon Wimbush, who had started 12 games in 2017. Book responded by completing 25 of 34 passes for 325 yards and 2 touchdowns, while adding 43 yards and three more scores rushing in a 56-27 win over Wake Forest. Prior to inserting Book into the offense, the Irish were struggling to move the ball and score. Through the first three weeks, they ranked 104th in scoring offense and 100th in total offense.
Defensively, the Irish returned 10 starters from 2017 and for the first time in in four years, they return their defensive coordinator. Statistically, Notre Dame doesn’t stand out on defense. They rank 65th in total defense (76th against the pass and 62nd against the run), but are 33rd in scoring defense (19.3 point per game). They’ve done enough to win, having only surrendered more than 20 points once, last week against Wake Forest, but now face a Stanford squad that has scored 30 points in three of four games this season.
The Cardinal have owned this matchup over the last decade, winning seven of the last nine meetings. Love has yet to truly break out for Stanford this year, but with a chance to do so in front of a national TV audience against a top-10 team would propel the senior running back right back into the Heisman discussion.