Chicago Colleges: Jim Habaugh
September, 23, 2010
By Wes Morgan | ESPNChicago.com
Kyle Terada/US PresswireJim Harbaugh has Stanford playing at a very high level, especially defensively.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- His team's full-blown identity crisis prompted Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly to hesitantly drag out an adjective that became a punch line during Charlie Weis' tenure.
"Then, if you really look at it, what we've been talking about is, the best word I can use is a nasty kind of tenaciousness to us that we've got to play with," he said earlier this week. "That no matter what happens, we have to find a way to win."
Nasty. Sounds tough, intimidating. Sounded mean when Weis said it over five years ago. Problem is, nasty isn't just scoring at will, it's also breaking the opponent's will. Nasty is, well, Stanford.
The No. 16-ranked Cardinal comes to Notre Dame on Saturday (2:30 p.m. on NBC) with three victories and an ornery disposition. Wild-eyed Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh has transformed a bunch of smart kids into heavy-breathing lunatics on defense, one that leads the nation against the pass and is hungry to improve against the run.
"I would say more than a pretty good job [on defense through three games]," Harbaugh told school website gostanford.com this week. "They're really forming an identity, getting a lot of turnovers. Yards come tough against our defense."
Notre Dame has Zen-like linebacker Manti Te'o leading an Irish defense that's desperate to tighten up all facets of its coverage. Stanford has unhinged hit-man Shayne Skov at linebacker -- a guy who missed time with a leg infection but returned last week against Wake Forrest and made an impact.
"Skov played at a high level," Harbaugh told MercuryNews.com. "He did a good job of knocking people back and running through gaps. He looked like Shayne Skov, a playmaker. That's what he gives our defense."
"I think really we're going to go in there and play the game just as if it were any other game, come out and play hard and maybe take time to kind of enjoy the victory afterwards," Skov told gostanford.com.
That's not a nice thing to say.
With the ball, Stanford proudly kicks teams when they're down. Harbaugh's squad has outscored its first three opponents by a combined 155-41. Last November, the Cardinal stomped Southern Cal, 55-21. Following Stanford's seventh touchdown against the Trojans, Harbaugh went for two.
"What's your deal?" a disgusted Pete Carroll asked Harbaugh at midfield after the game.
Harbaugh's deal is that he couldn't care less. Why should he? His team is feared, undefeated and favored by a laughable 4 1/2 points on the road. His team has an identity. His team is downright nasty.
TOP 25 SCOREBOARD
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
Final Marshall 52 Northern Illinois 23 Final Navy 17 San Diego State 16
Final Central Michigan 48 Western Kentucky 49 Final Fresno State 6 Rice 30
Final Illinois 18 Louisiana Tech 35 Final Rutgers 40 North Carolina 21 Final North Carolina State 34 UCF 27
Final Cincinnati 17 Virginia Tech 33 Final 15 Arizona State 36 Duke 31 Final Miami (FL) 21 South Carolina 24 Final/OT Boston College 30 Penn State 31 Final Nebraska 42 24 USC 45
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State