After at least half a decade away, it appears Notre Dame might be back amongst the ranks of national championship contenders.
Saturday the Irish get another chance to prove themselves worthy of such consideration when they host the 4-1 Stanford Cardinal for an afternooner in South Bend (3:30 pm ET, NBC). Can the Irish get to 6-0 and cover the 7-point spread? Or can Stanford beat Notre Dame for the fourth year in a row?
Notre Dame is off to its best start in a decade. The Irish opened this season with that romp over Navy in Ireland, and have been rolling pretty good since. They went 3-0 through the Big Ten portion of their schedule, beating Purdue, Michigan State and Michigan, then last week dominated Miami at Soldier Field in Chicago, pulling away for a 41-3 victory.
The Irish racked up a season-high 587 yards of offense while the defense held the Miami passing game, which had tallied over 1,000 yards over its previous two games, to 201 yards. On the season Notre Dame's defense has allowed three touchdowns.
Stanford, meanwhile, opened this season with an unimpressive victory over San Jose State, beat Duke, then got up for a big home game and knocked off USC, 21-14. But the Cardinal themselves became upset victims, coughing up a 10-point third-quarter lead and losing at Washington 17-13.
The Farmers then recovered just in time last Saturday, rallying from two touchdowns down midway through the fourth quarter to beat Arizona in overtime 54-48. QB Josh Nunes, Andrew Luck's replacement, accounted for five touchdowns.
Stanford has won the last three games in this series. Last year, in the regular-season finale, the Cardinal beat the Irish 28-14, covering as seven-point home favorites.
This game has seen some serious line movement. Most books opened Notre Dame earlier this week at around -10, but as of Friday morning most CFB betting outlets had dropped the Irish to -7.
Free Pick: Notre Dame has met every challenge so far, and might be improving on offense. We like the Irish minus the points for Saturday. (Courtesy of PickShark.com - follow us on Twitter for college football news updates.)
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