Planning for success: Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- As he sat down for interviews last week to talk about his final home game at Notre Dame, Carlo Calabrese asked a school official nearby to take a picture of the setting. A dozen or so reporters surrounded the Irish linebacker, and the senior wanted a memento of his final mid-week public gathering.

Then, the questions came in, including one asking what Calabrese's favorite memory was of his time inside Notre Dame Stadium.

"I'd say my biggest memory is last year's Stanford stop, goal-line stop," he said. "That was one of the highlights of my time in that stadium."

The time to recreate scenes back home is over, but there is one more opportunity to stuff Stanford, where Notre Dame travels Saturday for its final regular-season game.

With three losses, the Irish's postseason destiny likely will not be affected with a win or loss. And the Cardinal are already locked in to next week's Pac-12 title game, with Arizona State's home tilt against Arizona ultimately deciding where that conference championship showdown will be played. Still, plenty remains on the line for a pair of rivals that came off BCS-bowl appearances with national title hopes this season.

Coach Brian Kelly listed a number of benchmarks when asked what the No. 25 Irish have to do escape No. 8 Stanford with a win.

"One: One or less, in terms of turnovers, that's been a win," Kelly said. "So one turnover or less, that's got to happen. No. 2, there's got to be a running game, an effective running game as part of it. From a defensive standpoint, eliminate big plays. If we eliminate big plays, we can give up, you know, eight or nine or 10 but eliminate big play touchdowns.

"If we eliminate big play touchdowns and keep the points down. And our margin for keeping the points down is keeping is in the teens; then we've got a great chance of winning."

That plan might have worked best in last season's 20-13 overtime win over Stanford, with the Irish winning the rushing battle, 150-147. They turned the ball over three times while forcing two Cardinal giveaways, but the physical nature was re-stored in a rivalry that had seen Stanford win the previous three contests in deliberate fashion, having out-rushed Notre Dame by a combined 642-208 margin from 2009-11.

Then, needing just one yard to force a second overtime, Stepfan Taylor was denied four straight times from inside the five-yard line, meeting Calabrese and Matthias Farley on the final try.

Calabrese's favorite part?

"Just the end result," he said. "Everybody just on the defense, just dominating those four plays and just stopping them on that goal line was great."