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No. 19 Notre Dame wraps up regular season against struggling Stanford

Notre Dame tight end Mitchell Evans (88) collides with Pittsburgh defensive back Marquis Williams (14) as he leaps in the air during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Michael Caterina)

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Notre Dame’s season-ending trip to California lacks the high stakes that often accompany its regular-season finale against Stanford or Southern California.

Hopes for a playoff berth or New Year’s six bowls were put to rest with three losses already this season. So, the 19th-ranked Fighting Irish (8-3, No. 18 CFP) need to create their own motivation when they visit Stanford (3-8) on Saturday.

“It’s their job to make the choice that we’re going to be mentally ready to go,” coach Marcus Freeman said. “There’s no one answer that can guarantee it is going to happen, but it won’t be from a lack of effort from myself and our coaching staff to make sure this group is ready.”

The Cardinal are expecting just that from the Irish, especially after Stanford went to Notre Dame and pulled off a major upset last season.

“Yeah, they’re going to be … upset about that, and come out with some fire,” Stanford quarterback Ashton Daniels said. “They want to finish the season off strong, all this kind of good stuff. But for us, I think we just have to bear down and get back to what we’re used to.”

The game against the Irish gives Stanford a chance to end a rough first season under coach Troy Taylor on a high note.

The Cardinal will try to avoid a third straight nine-loss season and end a 12-game losing streak against ranked opponents that dates to early in the 2021 season.


Notre Dame is 2-2 in true road games this season, where the Irish have averaged 27.3 points per game — more than 10 points fewer than what they score at home.

The culprit? Notre Dame’s offense has gotten off to a sluggish start and struggled to hold onto the football in those contests. The Irish averaged 3.3 points in the first quarter on the road, which is also where eight of the team’s 13 turnovers occurred.

“I don’t want to make this only a road issue, but we haven’t performed to our standard,” Freeman said. “As I studied those games, we have to start better. I think in both of those games, we were down (early).”


Playing at home hasn’t quite been an advantage this season for the Cardinal. They have lost all six home games to extend their losing streak at Stanford Stadium to eight games. The Cardinal are in danger of their first winless season at home — excluding the pandemic season — since going 0-5 in 2006. The last FBS team to go 0-7 at home was Kansas in 2015.

“We got to get better in everything we do and certainly playing better at home is one of those things,” Taylor said.


Stanford’s offense shouldn’t scare anyone statistically. The Cardinal produce 350.7 yards (92nd) and 20.4 points (113th) per game. But don’t tell Irish defensive coordinator Al Golden that.

”I walked into Coach Golden’s offense on Sunday,” Freeman said, “and it was like a mad scientist with stuff all over the board. I (hadn’t) even started looking at Stanford yet. They’re going to have a lot for you to prepare for.”

Stanford’s offense employs a plethora of formations and personnel groups, including offensive sets that put athletic quarterbacks Ashton Daniels and Justin Lamson on the field at the same time.

“Some people might say they’re gimmicks. I think it’s clever, what they do,” Golden said. “I do. I think they’re clever. I think Coach Taylor is really good. Watched his body of work, and there are challenges all over the field.”


One of the few bright spots this season for Stanford has been the play of kicker Joshua Karty. He made all three field goals last week — including two from at least 50 yards — to improve to 20 for 23 on the season. Karty is 38 for 41 the last two years for the Cardinal on field goals.

“He’s unbelievable,” Taylor said. “His professionalism, preparation, he’ll visualize things for an hour. He has a routine he sticks in to. He’ll kick in the NFL for 18 years. He’s unbelievable.”