Players to watch in Notre Dame's regular season finale at Stanford

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame

RB Josh Adams

In his two career regular season finales — both taking place in the state of California — Adams has rushed for an average of 174 yards. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior has 1,337 rushing yards this season, exactly 100 yards shy of Vagas Ferguson’s 1979 school record. Will Adams break it on Saturday night? He’ll have to do it against an uncharacteristically tepid Stanford defense ranked 71st nationally in rushing defense (171.7 yards per game) and 90th in yards per carry defense (4.69).

DE Daelin Hayes

Yes, Notre Dame’s last game came against a triple-option offense in Navy, but the fact remains that the Irish have zero sacks in their last two games and just two total sacks in their last four games. Notre Dame needs more production from its defensive ends, and that starts with Hayes — a 6-4, 258-pound sophomore. Defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s first priority will be stopping electric Stanford running back Bryce Love, but a consistent Irish pass rush would considerably help matters as well.

Stanford

RB Bryce Love

Love’s statistics are almost incomprehensible. In his junior season, the 5-10, 196-pound running back has rushed for 1,723 yards, 8.8 yards per carry and 16 touchdowns. Last weekend, Love contributed 101 yards and a touchdown in a 17-14 win over California, despite playing on a gimpy ankle. It’s unclear just how healthy Stanford’s Heisman Trophy candidate will be for the game against Notre Dame on Saturday night. It’s perfectly clear, however, how important Love’s presence is for his team. Essentially, Love is the Cardinal offense.

DT Harrison Phillips

Stanford’s defense hasn’t been overwhelmingly disruptive this season, averaging just five tackles for loss per game (96th nationally). However, Phillips has been the unquestioned leader of the Cardinal defense. A 6-4, 295-pound defensive tackle, Phillips leads his team in both tackles for loss (13) and sacks (5) and ranks second in tackles (78). Phillips and Co. will have their hands full with a Notre Dame offense that averages 290.5 rushing yards per game. The more physical team at the point of attack will likely close its regular season with a victory.

Notre Dame’s Daelin Hayes (9) celebrates making a tackle during the Temple at Notre Dame NCAA football game at Notre Dame Stadium Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA