Instant Observations: Irish take care of business in regular-season finale at Stanford

Eric Hansen
ND Insider

Bottom Line

Notre Dame did the only thing it could to keep its College Football Playoff aspirations in play Saturday night at Stanford Stadium — take care of its own business.

The Irish did so against the nation’s fifth-worst rushing defense by taking to the air primarily, at least through the first three quarters. Jack Coan threw 345 yards and two touchdowns in a convincing 45-14 romp over a Stanford team (3-9) that lost its seventh straight after upsetting Oregon on Oct. 2. 

► Scoring summary: No. 5 Notre Dame 45, Stanford 14

Kyren Williams heated up late to finish with 74 yards on 19 carries. His 12-yard TD run with 58 second left lifted him over the 1,000-yard rushing plateau for the second straight season.

Stanford became the first team to score on the Irish in November, but the Cardinal didn’t hit the 100-yard mark in total offense until inside the 12:00-mark of the fourth quarter.

Big Picture

Notre Dame (11-1) clinches a spot in the New Year’s Six Bowl lineup, with the most likely destination — at the moment — being the Jan. 1 Fiesta Bowl. With a little help from conference championship game underdogs next Saturday, the Irish could find themselves in the College Football Playoff field for the third time in four years.  

Questions Answered

The Irish maintained their focus and intensity throughout the month of November against overmatched opponents and playing all four games without All-America safety Kyle Hamilton. 

Questions Lingering

Will Hamilton, out since the first quarter of an Oct. 23 win over USC, rejoin the Irish in the postseason? Will Notre Dame’s improvement translate to elite competition?

My Game Balls Go To

Offense: Michael Mayer. The sophomore tight end tied a school record for most receptions in a game by a tight end with nine catches (for 105 yards). With that ninth reception, Mayer broke the single-season school record for tight end receptions with his 64th — one more than Tyler Eifert had in 2011. 

Defense: The Ademilola Twins. Defensive tackle Jayson and defensive end Justin combined for nine tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

The Road Ahead

Two important dates coming up for Notre Dame before the Irish play their next game are Tuesday night at 7, when the next set of College Football Playoff rankings are revealed, and Sunday at noon. The latter is when the final set of rankings, the playoff field and the New Year’s Six pairings are all announced.

Follow ND Insider Eric Hansen on Twitter: @EHansenNDI