Saturday’s matchup in South Bend between Notre Dame (3-2) and Stanford (1-4) will break some new ground in the series. It’s the first time since 2016 that both teams enter into the game unranked in the AP Top 25.

Stanford is a massive underdog, with Notre Dame favored by 16.5 points. But it’s not totally undeserved. The Cardinal have lost 11 straight games against Power Five (Notre Dame included) opponents dating back to last season.

Bill Connelly’s SP+ model sees no reason why that slide will stop against the Irish.

The predictive model is calling for a 37-21 victory for the Fighting Irish. A win would be Notre Dame’s fourth consecutive since opening the year 0-2.

Notre Dame has also won three straight meetings in this particular series, a streak that dates back to the 2018 season. The rivals did not play in 2020 due to the pandemic. Stanford won three straight and seven of nine before that, but this isn’t the same Stanford that Cardinal fans came to know and love early in the David Shaw tenure.

The Irish are developing one of the best pass-rushes in the country. They have a posted sack rate this season of 9.3%, a mark that ranks 11th nationally. Conversely, the Stanford offensive line has struggled to protect starting quarterback Tanner McKee, allowing a 9.7% sack rate. That mark ranks 123rd nationally.

Stanford’s greatest weapon — big-play receivers in the pass game — can be effectively neutralized if the Cardinal can’t give McKee the time he needs to get downfield.

From 2007-2020, Stanford never lost five consecutive games in a single season. Jim Harbaugh resurrected a program that had been down on its luck for years. A loss to the Irish on Saturday would give Stanford its second such losing streak in as many seasons. That’s what’s at stake for the Cardinal, as questions about Shaw’s viability as the program’s lead grow louder each week.