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Tradition Tuesday: Stanford

Oct 9, 2012, 10:45 PM EDT

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Wide Receiver Theo Riddick (6) carries the ball in the first quarter.
Copyright (2010) Matt Cashore

Though there will be a multitude of other guests on campus, the #7 Fighting Irish have one focus this weekend – the #17 Stanford Cardinal.

With the loss of 2011 Heisman Trophy runner-up Andrew Luck to the NFL Draft, there were some questions surrounding the Stanford offense before the season began. But the Cardinal (4-1) shocked the college football world with a 21-14 win over #2 USC on Sept. 15, and are coming off a 54-48 overtime shootout victory against Arizona.

What Palo Alto and South Bend lack in terms of geographic and demographic similarities, these two universities make up for in their commitment to academic and athletic excellence. Notre Dame is tied for Duke for first nationally among Division I institutions in combining athletic and academic achievement, as announced last week by the National Collegiate Scouting Association.

Rankings are calculated by averaging the academic rankings in U.S. News & World Report, the strength of the athletic program by the NACDA Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup ranking, and each school’s NCAA student-athlete graduation rate.

The school just behind Notre Dame and Duke?

Stanford, of course.

On the football field, Notre Dame and Stanford first met in the eleventh Rose Bowl (Jan. 1, 1925), a game featuring two of the most innovative and accomplished coaches in football history – Knute Rockne for the Fighting Irish and Glenn “Pop” Warner in his first season with the Cardinal. Elmer Layden of the Four Horsemen scored three touchdowns to lead Notre Dame to a 27-10 win.

This week’s game will mark the 27th meeting between the two football programs, with the Irish holding a 17-9 series advantage. With the exception of 1995 and 1996, the squads have met every season since 1988.

Beginning in 1989, the Notre Dame Club of the San Francisco Bay Area presented the Legends Trophy, a combination of Irish crystal and California redwood, to the winner of the series.

Though Notre Dame holds the advantage in the win-loss column, the Cardinal have a history of winning the big games in the series. In fact, of Notre Dame’s 17 victories, none have come when Stanford was in the top-25 (the 1925 Rose Bowl win occurred before teams were ranked).

In 1990, the unranked Cardinal shocked Lou Holtz’s #1 Irish squad, 36-31. Two years later, #19 Stanford defeated #7 Notre Dame, 33-16. Stanford has also won each of the four additional meetings in which it has been ranked (1997, 2001, 2010, 2011).

From 2002-08, Notre Dame won seven consecutive games against Stanford, but the Cardinal have taken the last three, including a 28-14 victory in the season finale last year.

For Notre Dame, perhaps the most exciting victory against Stanford came in 2005, a game in which Brady Quinn threw for 432 yards and three touchdown passes, and Darius Walker scored the go-ahead touchdown with less than a minute remaining. The 38-31 victory helped Notre Dame secure a spot in the Fiesta Bowl.

This weekend, the Fighting Irish can take a big step towards fulfilling those BCS dreams once again in 2012. A win would improve Notre Dame’s record to 6-0 and certainly put head coach Brian Kelly‘s team among the top-8 when the first BCS standings are released on Sunday.

Note: Excerpts from this post were first published on the UNDerground blog last season prior to the Stanford game.

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