Stanford's visit to Notre Dame on Saturday means a lot less than it could've. The Irish have tanked in disastrous fashion, and Stanford has lost a rare two games in a row to fall out of serious Pac-12 contention.
Neither Stanford nor Notre Dame has a quality victory. Christian McCaffrey has been in a rut for Stanford, and Notre Dame hasn't gotten anything mimicking traction from its best players all year. Brian Kelly already fired his defensive coordinator, and one wonders how much more carnage Notre Dame's head coach can withstand. It's gotten that ugly, even if you don't hold Notre Dame's hurricane-game loss at NC State against him.
So, the Irish and Cardinal will play each other, and we'll watch it because they're Notre Dame and Stanford. But the game doesn't have a fraction of the shine it could've, and watching it might leave you in a sad state about what's been lost. (Or, if you're a fan of neither, maybe you'll watch it and enjoy it. That's a matter of personal preference.)
How to watch, stream, and listen
TV: 7:39 p.m ET., NBC. The broadcasters are Mike Tirico, Doug Flutie, and Kathryn Tappen.
Radio: Stanford and Notre Dame
Online streaming: NBC
Spread: Notre Dame is favored by about a field goal.
Make friends: Get to SB Nation's team blog chats at Rule of Tree (for Stanford fans) and One Foot Down (for Notre Dame fans).
Three big things to know
1. Stanford's evened out a series that used to be all Irish. Notre Dame's all-time record against the Cardinal is 19-11, predicated by seven wins in a row from 2002 through 2008. But Stanford's taken four of the last six games, and the last four meetings have been decided by one possession. Last year's 38-36 Stanford win was a thriller, while both teams sat just a bit too far outside the Playoff picture for it to ultimately change that picture.
2. It'd be great to see McCaffrey get back to himself, but that might not be easy. Run defense hasn't been Notre Dame's problem. The Irish are allowing 4 yards per carry, and they've prevented explosive running plays as well as just about anybody. It's tempting to see McCaffrey go up against a 2-4 opponent that's floundered on the whole and expect him to bust out, but Notre Dame seems well-suited to deal with a big-play back like McCaffrey. (Then again, he's good.)
3. It could come down to the quarterbacks. Notre Dame's not a great matchup for McCaffrey, and Stanford's run defense should hold up decently against Irish runners Josh Adams and Tarean Folston. That leaves a lot on the plates of Stanford's Ryan Burns (and maybe Keller Chryst) and Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer. Notre Dame shouldn't mind that.