Notre Dame is 4-0, a top-10 team in both polls for the third week in a row and pushing the Heisman candidacy of quarterback Everett Golson. Yet the Fighting Irish are underdogs at Notre Dame Stadium for just the second time since 2011 because Stanford is coming to town and is ND's first true test of the season.
All of Notre Dame's four opponents to date are unranked, and the Irish have beaten them by a combined 140-46 margin. Against Syracuse last Saturday, Notre Dame won 31-15 -- despite five turnovers. That sloppy victory provides little comfort with Stanford soon setting down. The Cardinal's only loss was a narrow home upset to USC; in its three other games, Stanford outscored opponents 100-13.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has talked this week about the need to remain a "task-master" for the Irish; against Stanford's top-ranked defense (in both yardage and scoring) there's zero room for the kind of performance the Irish had last week. Can Golson maintain the early shine on Notre Dame's season?
How to watch, listen, and stream
Game time: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC (Dan Hicks, Mike Mayock, Kathryn Tappen, Doug Flutie)
Online streaming: NBC Sports Live Extra
Rankings and records: Notre Dame is 4-0, and ranked No. 9 in the AP Top 25 and No. 8 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Stanford is 3-1, and ranked No. 14 in the AP poll and No. 13 in the Coaches poll.
Vegas: The spread opened at Even, but Stanford is now a two-point favorite. The over/under is set at 44.5.
Weather forecast: Rain showers, high of 52 and low of 40.
Two things at stake
For Notre Dame, the entire narrative of their season is at stake. Having faced an easy slate of games to date, a big loss to Stanford wouldn't really prop up the Irish very much -- especially with a trip to Florida State looming in two weeks. Golson needs to play well to keep his Heisman hopes alive, especially after his four turnovers vs. Syracuse.
Stanford took down Washington in Seattle last Saturday for a solid early-season road win. Another victory away from home would go a long way in helping its national perception. After traveling to Arizona State in two weeks, Stanford won't play another ranked team until its trip to Oregon on Nov. 1.
One big matchup
Stanford offense vs. Notre Dame defense: Stanford once again has an elite defense, but the offense has struggled to keep pace. Its 27.5 points per game rank 80th in the country, while its 413.3 yards per game rank 70th. Quarterback Kevin Hogan has been fine, completing 71 percent of his passes for 883 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions, but the offense has nine turnovers and the Cardinal rank 111th in turnover margin (minus-1.0). Stanford also averages just below six penalties per game.