Stanford Cardinal vs. Oregon Ducks Point Spread – Pick

Stanford Cardinal (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-0 SU, 2-2 ATS)
College Football Week 5
Date/Time: Saturday, September 29, 2018 at 7:30PM EDT
Where: Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, Indiana
TV: NBC

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: STAN +4.5/ND -4.5
Over/Under Total: 50

The Stanford Cardinal come to Indiana for a week five matchup with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday in a battle of 4-0 teams. This is a non-conference game between opponents who have a lot of familiarity, having played annually since 1997. Following a 7-year winning streak by the Irish that ended in 2008, Stanford has prevailed in 7 of the last 9 matchups, including the last three. Last season saw the Cardinal win at Stanford Stadium, 38-20. Let’s see what we can come up in this season’s installment of Stanford-Notre Dame.

Stanford really took a big step forward as a team on Saturday with a 38-31 overtime win over Oregon on the road. It was a great game, where Stanford made a late improbable comeback to seal the win. It was almost a wrap late in the third when Oregon appeared to take a 31-7 lead on a TD. The score was overturned and two plays later, an 80-yard scoop-and-run by Stanford LB Joey Alfieri gave Stanford life. Stanford battled all the way back, caught a few breaks, and ended up winning in overtime on a KJ Costello TD pass to TE Colby Parkinson, which he batted dramatically before hauling it in.

Notre Dame was also impressive in week four, with a 56-27 road-slaughter of a decent Wake Forest squad. What made it important other than the win was the new look they showed by sitting Brandon Wimbush at QB and going with junior Ian Book behind center. After Saturday’s showing, they look to be locked into Book, who was 25-for-34 passing with 325 yards and two TDs, while also adding three rushing touchdowns. As mild 6-point favorites, the offense took off under Book’s stewardship and before long, Wake Forest was drowning. I suppose one can understand head coach Brian Kelly’s move, following three somewhat-tepid offensive showings to open the season. And if his first showing is any indication, Book might be the right guy to take this Irish offense to a level where they could morph into a serious contender.

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Last Saturday, we saw the Notre Dame offense with a new dimension. Everyone seemed to play better on Saturday, scoring 56 after scoring a combined 70 points in their first three games of the season. In week one, they scored the big win over Michigan, followed by three easier games against Ball State, Vandy, and then Wake. But this offense could really develop. RB Jafar Armstrong rolled to two scores and 98 yards on just 8 carries. They have a large cast of ball-catchers, all of whom are capable of making game-breaking plays and backs like Tony Jones, Jr. who are proven difference-makers.

This should be the first real test of a Notre Dame defense that has been pretty good so far, while not facing a offense like what Stanford brings to the table. They gave up just a combined 50 points in their first three games, before allowing 27 to Wake Forest on Saturday. That last total came in a 29-point win/cover, so it might not be that reliable of a gauge, but suffice to say that the Cardinal are a far more multi-dimensional and powerful offense than what this Irish “D” has seen this season. They will again need that newly-found offensive energy to help support a defense that figures to struggle to contain all of Stanford’s weapons.

Stanford showed on Saturday that they’re not perfect, but any team hoping to beat them better come prepared to go to war for a full 60 minutes. Late in the third, it was hard to find a path to victory for the Cardinal. Oregon flew out to a fast start and could not be stopped on offense. They were controlling the Stanford front, while Oregon’s Justin Herbert picked apart the Cardinal secondary. But the defense got its act together as the game carried on, becoming more-rigid and getting a few key big plays in the second-half, including the fumble return for a TD. The offense started clicking as well, as Bryce Love got unhinged, while KJ Costello started connecting with his versatile big body pass-catchers. Saturday could turn out to be a pivotal part of Stanford’s 2018 campaign.

For the first, say, 2 and ¾ quarters against Oregon, it wasn’t so much about Xs and Os, as it was the fact that the Cardinal didn’t seem to match Oregon’s enthusiasm on the field. The Oregon faithful were rollicking, with the prospects of their team rising up after a recent rough patch. But there was something very steadfast about Stanford, as they stayed in the moment, eventually seeing things start to increasingly go their way as the game moved into the late stages. When breaking down teams at this level, that type of ability to hang in there and thrive when conditions are completely unfavorable counts for a whole lot.

Moving forward, however, there were some signs from Stanford that might bite them as they delve into the deep end of the college football pool. And having to go into Oregon for a drag-out battle only to pick up and have to go back on the road to face the Irish in consecutive weeks could be that time. For much of the game, they struggled to get to Herbert, as the Oregon QB was able to coolly operate without disruption. The slow start and how it took so long to warm to the task could also hurt them. And while Bryce Love had a TD and made some nice plays on 89 yards rushing, he hasn’t really flashed that Heisman-frontrunner form yet, as he’s fallen completely out of that race after 4 games. It’s just that after watching Notre Dame’s offense explode on Saturday, Stanford will need to hit the ground running on both sides of the ball this week.

While Stanford was in a more-draining game on Saturday, I think both teams had ideal set-ups leading into this matchup. I look for both offenses to pick up where they left off. I see a healthier and overdue Love breaking loose a bit, with Notre Dame putting up points, as well. In a game that seems hard to call from an ATS perspective, I’m inclined to take the over in this one.

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