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Notre Dame ready for challenge against Stanford

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said it doesn't take long to figure out what kind of challenge the No. 7 Irish (5-0) will face Saturday when they play host to No. 17 Stanford (4-1).

"They're a physical football team," Kelly said during his Tuesday news conference. "They play that way up front, in the back end, their running backs, tight ends, it's pretty apparent across the board the kind of team you are going to play when you face Stanford."

It is also apparent where the Cardinal's strengths are on offense.

Tight ends Levine Toilolo, 6-foot-8, 265 pounds, and Zack Ertz, 6-6, 252 pounds, are matchup nightmares, Kelly said. The two seniors have combined for 594 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

And Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor is averaging 112 rushing yards and has five touchdowns this season.

"Taylor is an outstanding back," Kelly said. "He's proven himself. He's a physical player. He gets banged up, comes back and continues to compete. You can see he's the heart of their football team."

Stanford, which has won the last three games in the series, also has a stingy defense.

The Cardinal is only giving up 77.2 rushing yards per game, and they attack the quarterback. Stanford averages 2.8 sacks per game.

"Their defense is an outstanding group." Kelly said. "They are difficult to run the football on, and it is hard to get the ball downfield because the quarterback is under constant pressure.

"We will have to get better as a football team this week. We will have to improve on our performance against Miami if we want to beat Stanford."

The Journal Gazette's Assistant Sports Editor Tony Krausz covers The University of Notre Dame. Krausz, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a native of St. Louis, has been assistant sports editor since October 2005. Prior to joining the JG, he worked at two papers in Mississippi covering high school and college athletics.