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Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Players to watch: Stanford

By Matt Fortuna

There could be quite a lot on the line when these two gather in Palo Alto, Calif., on Nov. 30.

To read previous entries from this series, click here.

Offense: Kevin Hogan, QB. Is it possible that Notre Dame's perfect 2012 regular season doesn't happen if Hogan starts under center at Notre Dame Stadium? Perhaps. Either way, Hogan went 5-0 to finish the season, with four of those wins coming against ranked opponents. The Cardinal won the Rose Bowl, and they enter 2013 as a national title contender. Hogan has four of his five starting offensive linemen back to protect him, and while he loses his top two tight ends from last season, the redshirt sophomore will look to build off his 71.7 completion percentage from 2012, when he tossed for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns to go with just three picks. He added 263 rushing yards and two more scores on the ground, too.

Defense: Shayne Skov, LB. There are about five guys you can't go wrong with here, but we'll settle on Skov, the Cardinal's leading returning tackler from 2012 (81 total). As a junior, he netted nine tackles for loss, including two sacks, to go with a break-up, a pass defended and two quarterback hurries. He's on virtually every watch list he's eligible for this fall, and he should be even healthier after posting those 2012 numbers less than a year after having major knee surgery. The redshirt senior anchors a defense that returns eight starters, including five of its starters from the front-seven, as the Cardinal look to continue their winning ways of the past three seasons.