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Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Stanford Cardinal Point Spread - Pick

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-2 SU, 7-4 ATS) vs. Stanford Cardinal (8-3 SU, 4-7-1 ATS)
College Football Week 13
Date/Time: Saturday, November 25, 2017 at 8PM EST
Where: Stanford Stadium, Stanford, California
TV: ABC

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: ND -2.5/STAN +2.5
Over/Under Total: 55

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish come to the Bay Area on Saturday to face the Stanford Cardinal for the Crystal Bowl. This matchup has been an annual occurrence since 1997, with Stanford having won six of the last eight and the last two, including a 17-10 win at Notre Dame last season. Notre Dame rallied late to thwart Navy's upset bid on Saturday, 24-17. They now face a Stanford team that won their 7th of 8 games on Saturday with a narrow 17-14 win over Cal. The win lifted their record to 8-3.

The Fighting Irish were able to overcome a bad loss the previous week to Miami, which may have dashed their CFP hopes. They still seemed a bit crestfallen on Saturday, requiring a fourth-quarter score and having their defense step up late to overcome Navy. While their CFP hopes seem bleak, that doesn't mean they have nothing to play for, as a win here should get them in a New Year's Six bowl game. It's a faraway road trip against a good team and their work will be cut out for them on Saturday.

After seeing most of their difference-makers flounder against Miami the previous week, Saturday saw Notre Dame get some of its top guys back on the right track offensively. With three turnovers against Miami, Brandon Wimbush stabilized his condition on Saturday, with an efficient three-touchdown performance, with two TD throws and a scoring run. RB Josh Adams sprung back to life with 106 yards on the ground. WR Keith Stepherson was big on the day, with two TD grabs on 103 yards receiving.

The Notre Dame defense has been pretty good, not great perhaps, but a balanced unit that allows just over 20 points per game on average. They held some good offenses to minimal damage this season, like Clemson and USC. But after giving up a lot to Wake Forest and Miami, followed by a better showing against a sliding Navy team, they haven't really gotten better over the course of the season. They have playmakers, like Te'Veon Coney, Nyles Morgan, and Greer Martini in the middle, but their pass-rush is on the weak side. And with how badly their run-defense has been performing lately, we'll see what they come up with on the road against Stanford's hot Bryce Love, if he is in fact ready to go.

Stanford was able to escape with a win on Saturday, challenged by a dogged Cal team all the way. Cal made it close late in the third quarter, with a tense but scoreless final quarter notching the win for the Cardinal. They got a nice showing from Bryce Love, who missed the fourth quarter as he re-aggravated his ankle injury. Stanford was able to hold onto the ball for a long stretch in the final quarter with Cameron Scarlett filling in for Love. The Cardinal can win the North division if Washington beats Washington State this coming week. This might not be a spot where they really push the envelope with Love. A win here could boost their overall bowl profile, but the stakes might be higher for Notre Dame.

It was more a gritty performance by the Stanford offense on Saturday than a particularly good one. Cal played them pretty tight and they weren't able to get much separation, depending more on a defense that was able to thrive late and keep Cal off the board. Quarterback KJ Costello was OK, going 17-for-26 passing with 185 yards with a touchdown and pick. The run-game did most of the heavy-lifting with the 101 yards and a TD from Love, along with a very-useful 61 yards from Scarlett. Surging late this season after being hampered with injuries earlier in the season, big body wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside had a nice 79 yards through the air. The offense has been highly-undependable this season. Over the last few months, their common range of scoring has ranged from the teens to the twenties. Their "D" has bailed them out and 7 wins in 8 games shows they have been able to make it work with an offense that doesn't always shine.

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The Stanford defense might not get a lot of attention, but they are one of the better units in the conference. It won't always be spelled out statistically, but in their last seven conference games this season, the highest number of points allowed was 24. In the Pac-12, that's pretty darned good and there were some pretty tough offenses in that mix. They have playmakers across the board. Safety Justin Reid has 5 picks, while Quenton Meeks and Ben Edwards have had multiple picks, as well. On the line, Harrison Phillips is a monster and can make a big impact on games. Peter Kalambayi, Dylan Jackson, and Phillips have combined for 22 sacks.

This has the looks of a tough game. Neither team is really crescendoing at the end of the season. Notre Dame seems a bit de-poofed after the loss to Miami and there might be some deflation to cope with on their part. This is a tough one to call and not an easy road spot for the Irish, but I see the high-stakes of this matchup and their greater offensive variety notching them the cover this week. I'm taking the Irish.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting the Notre Dame Fighting Irish minus 2.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Irish vs. Cardinal game from home by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 50% sign-up bonus!

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