Players to watch: Notre Dame vs. Stanford
A look at a few players to watch in Saturday’s game (4 p.m. EST on FOX) between AP No. 15 Notre Dame (9-2) and Stanford (4-7) at Stanford Stadium.
WR CHASE CLAYPOOL, Notre Dame
Stanford will be without senior safety Malik Antoine and likely future NFL cornerback Paulson Adebo, both sidelined with injuries, on a defense that ranks No. 110 nationally in pass efficiency. That sets the stage for Claypool to have another dominant performance. The senior has 27 catches for 392 yards and five touchdowns through four games this month. Claypool’s seven catches against Boston College brought him to 140 career receptions, tying him at eighth all-time in school history with former tight end Tyler Eifert. Expect Claypool to pass former Notre Dame wide receiver Will Fuller’s 144 career catches (seventh all-time) against the Cardinal.
S KYLE HAMILTON, Notre Dame
Oregon’s Jevon Holland and Hamilton are the only freshmen with four interceptions this season. Hamilton has done so despite playing less than half of the snaps in a rotational role. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound former five-star recruit figures to have a chance at another interception with backup quarterback Davis Mills earning the nod at starter. Mills threw four picks combined in his last two games and is 2-3 as K.J. Costello’s replacement. Hamilton may also have to account for 6-7, 251-pound standout tight end Colby Parkinson, Mills’ top security blanket.
QB DAVIS MILLS, Stanford
Mills’ five starts replacing Costello — who’s dealt with multiple injuries this season — have not been all bad. The junior registered a career-high 504 passing yards in Stanford’s Nov. 16 loss against Washington State. He helped upset then No. 15-ranked Washington 23-13 and also defeat Oregon State 31-28. None of those defenses compare to that of Notre Dame, however. Mills must elevate his game for Stanford to stand a chance. The starting Irish defense has allowed four touchdowns in the past four games combined. Notre Dame ranks No. 16 in scoring defense and is tied with Appalachian State for No. 19 in total defense.
LB CASEY TOOHILL, Stanford
Toohill has been a bright spot in a down season for Stanford’s defense. The 6-4, 257-pound outside linebacker leads the Cardinals in sacks with eight and ranks third on the team in tackles with 54. The Irish offensive line remains vulnerable without injured starters in right guard Tommy Kraemer (knee) and right tackle Robert Hainsey (ankle). Quarterback Ian Book faced a sizable amount of pressure from a Boston College defense that is tied for No. 121 in sacks. Big, momentum-shifting plays are a must if the Cardinal want to make this game closer than expected.