Notre Dame is favored to retain the prestigious Legends Trophy (a combination of Irish crystal and California redwood first presented in 1989) by 31 1/2 points.
Stanford (0-5) may just be hoping to survive the trip in one piece. The Cardinal has sustained enough injuries through the first half of the season to last a decade. No less than seven offensive starters have been sidelined.
Notre Dame (4-1) shared the field with Stanford in last year's farewell to the old Stanford Stadium and nearly walked away in shame. The then sixth-ranked Irish needed a late touchdown to pull out a 38-31 win.
Stanford coach Walt Harris said looking at last year's game film against Notre Dame would "be a good shot in the arm to take a look at that."
The previous week, Stanford felt its near success last year in an overtime loss to UCLA was appropriate viewing material too.
"We're trying to get better and come together as a team," Harris said. "Our goal is to keep chipping away and play well in all three phases. Our focus has to be on ourselves."
Stanford has lost seven straight dating to last year, its longest losing streak since the 1982-83 teams combined for nine straight. Stanford finished 1-10 in 1983, its last 10-loss season.
The Cardinal last finished a season winless in 1960 (0-10) and here is the rub: That 1960 team scored an average of 11.1 points and allowed 25.4 per game. This year the team scores 12.6 a game and allows 37.4.
Stanford has allowed 187 points, 52 more than Arizona State, the next worst team. Only Arizona has scored fewer points (60) than Stanford's 63.
"It has been extremely frustrating because we have so many returning starters on offense," Stanford left guard Josiah Vinson said. "We have really high expectations of ourselves as an offense and individually."
This Stanford team is about opportunity though. Since there is nothing they can do about their start, Cardinal players look to do something about their finish.
"We're looking to go there and make a statement that we are a good football team to be reckoned with," sophomore linebacker Clinton Snyder said. "We're going through some tough times but we're getting better every game."
Notre Dame senior quarterback Brady Quinn needs 242 yards to become the 32nd player in NCAA history to surpass 10,000 passing yards. Last year he threw for 423 against the Cardinal.
Harris recruited Quinn for Pittsburgh years ago, so he understands how effective Quinn can be within an offense.
"He's playing extremely well," Harris said.
Stanford senior quarterback Trent Edwards has thrown for 5,361 yards in his career. He's averaging 191.8 yards a game, up from his career best of 190.8 in 2004, and he's completing nearly 61 percent of his attempts. That's without three senior receivers, all of will remain out this week. His efficiency rating is not as good as last year but better than his sophomore season.
After five games last year, Stanford recorded 13 sacks and allowed 14. This year, Stanford has recorded three sacks and has allowed 21.
The Stanford defense is coming off its best game though, and improving gaps like that in sacks will surely show down the line.
Until the, though, Stanford hopes to keep players healthy and play a little better.
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