Book it: Notre Dame looks like Playoff contender in win over Stanford – 3 takeaways

(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The No. 8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish prove their the real deal by handling the No. 7 Stanford Cardinal at home, 38-17. Here are the three biggest takeaways.

In one of the biggest games of the Week 5 slate, the No. 8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish dominated their rival in the No. 7 Stanford Cardinal on Saturday night to the tune of 38-17. Stanford just always seemed to be playing from behind in this one.

The Cardinal pulled out a miraculous comeback on the road against the division rival Oregon Ducks last week, but it just was not in the cards for Stanford to achieve back-to-back victories on the road against ranked teams.

Notre Dame improves to 5-0 on the year, while Stanford falls to a respectable 4-1. Stanford definitely has enough firepower to win 10 games this season, but Notre Dame’s ceiling looks to be slightly higher this year.

Ultimately, we all wanted a good game between these two rivals. While it wasn’t that, we did learn a ton from this ball game on both teams, as well as the Power 5 college football landscape. Here are the three biggest takeaways from Notre Dame’s dominating win over Stanford on Saturday night in South Bend.

Ian Book makes Notre Dame a strong College Football Playoff contender

After largely struggling on offense with Brandon Wimbush as their starting quarterback, the Fighting Irish now have a new guy under center that makes them all the more dynamic on that side of the ball. Ian Book has showcased great dual-threat ability in his first two starts of the season.

Notre Dame put it on Wake Forest last week in Winston-Salem. Though Wake Forest isn’t a punching bag anymore, Stanford has been a top-tier program for the last decade. Book completed 24 of 33 passes for 278 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He averaged a solid 8.4 yard per attempt, as well as run the ball 15 times for 47 yards.

Though he didn’t beat the Cardinal with his legs to the degree that he did against Wake Forest, Book took what the defense gave him all night. He made the necessary plays to lead Notre Dame to a convincing victory over Stanford at home.

Notre Dame will certainly move up from No. 8 in next week’s AP Top 25 Poll. Though we haven’t seen it yet, maybe the independent juggernaut could crash the College Football Playoff party that has only let Power 5 conference teams in to date? Notre Dame is very good and could certainly take the spot that would have been reserved for a weak ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12 champion.

Maybe the Pac-12 doesn’t get a team into the Playoff this year?

With Notre Dame looking more like a Playoff team with each passing week, we have to wonder which Power 5 conference could conceivably lose its berth to the surging Fighting Irish.

Though the ACC looks rough, are we sure the Clemson Tigers aren’t going to be undefeated? The Big Ten has to get a team in this year, right? And of course, there are a few compelling teams in the Big 12 like the Oklahoma Sooners and the West Virginia Mountaineers.

However, the Pac-12 has a few things not going for it. One, the Pac-12 South is the weakest of the eight Power 5 divisions. Two, the two best teams in the conference in Stanford and the Washington Huskies have a loss to a strong Power 5 team in the non-conference. Do remember that Washington fell to the Auburn Tigers in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta on Labor Day Weekend.

So even if the Cardinal go 9-0 in Pac-12 play, which is really hard to do by the way, they still may not get into the Playoff thanks to the head-to-head loss with independent Notre Dame. At this juncture, only the California Golden Bears and the Colorado Buffaloes remain undefeated out of the Pac-12. Maybe one of them is legit, but Stanford remains the conference’s best potential Playoff offering. Not sure if they’re getting in at this point.

Bryce Love injuring his ankle is exactly what Stanford doesn’t need.

Bryce Love was Baker Mayfield away from winning the Heisman Trophy. He opted to come back for his senior year at Stanford to finish his undergraduate degree in human biology, as well as give his all for the Cardinal in last season on the collegiate gridiron.

Sadly, he hasn’t been anything close to a Heisman candidate. In the second half, Love hurt his ankle and had to exit the ball game. It didn’t look good, but he was at least able to limp around a bit. If this injury is a multi-week thing, then it really dampens what Stanford can do offensively.

Quarterback K.J. Costello has shown many positive things this season, but you could tell that he needed Love late in that ball game to try to catch Notre Dame. He only threw for 174 yards, while Stanford rushing for only a combined 55 on the ground.

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Yes, Stanford is more than capable of winning the Pac-12, and maybe reaching the Playoff for the first time in school history should they catch fire in the second half of the season. That being said, it will be close to impossible for the Cardinal to do so without their best player in Love playing like one of the best players in the nation we all thought he would be this year. Seeing him get hurt was no fun at all.