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Notre Dame Football: Brian VanGorder's Stout Defense Continues to Impress

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Through four games, Notre Dame’s defense had yet to face a potent offense. After Saturday’s 17-14 win over Stanford, Notre Dame made it look like it still hasn’t.

The Irish stymied the Cardinal for four quarters, allowing just 205 yards of total offense. Stanford’s 3.0 yard-per-play output was its lowest since 2006. The 47 rushing yards were the fewest since 2007.

“I think they’ve got an outstanding defensive coordinator,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said of Notre Dame’s Brian VanGorder. “He mixes it up. A lot of pressure.”

The Irish deployed different looks and sent pressure from all over the defense. Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan finished 18-of-36 for 158 yards and two interceptions. He was sacked four times, and Notre Dame tallied seven quarterback hurries.

“They did an outstanding scheme on the defensive side, and their guys played hard,” Shaw said. “They played fast. And you can tell they're very well coached because they're running full speed where they're supposed to be.”

VanGorder’s aggressive and attacking mentality was expected to be more fun to watch than former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s bend-don’t-break scheme. It’s been entertaining, yes, and also wildly successful. The Irish rank tied for third in the nation in scoring defense, per CFBStats.com, allowing an average of 12 points per game.

Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Notre Dame’s success on defense starts with aggressive, shutdown cornerback play.

“If you're going to play great defense you have to clamp down [on the perimeter],” Kelly said. “I think that's where we've really made significant improvement over the course of the year.”

Graduate student cornerback Cody Riggs has been rock-solid on one side, while sophomore cornerback Cole Luke had been quietly consistent on the other. Luke spoke up Saturday with his first two career interceptions—picking off Hogan in the first and third quarter, respectively.

Luke also helped key the efforts in containing Stanford speedster Ty Montgomery. Outside of a late 42-yard kickoff return, Notre Dame limited the playmaker to nine touches for 26 yards.

“One thing that was stressed to me before the game is that you have to have no fear,” Luke said. “It does not matter what receiver you are going against or what offense. We knew he was a great player, but when the lights come on and you are on the field, it does not really matter. You just have to make plays and play ball.”

The Irish continually did so Saturday. They now sit at 5-0, poised to rise into the top-five after the college football world crumbled this weekend. They’ve ascended thanks to a defense that has yet to succumb to its opponents.

The real test looms in two weeks when Notre Dame will battle Jameis Winston and Florida State. But for now, the Irish defense has proven itself.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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College Football's All-Week 6 First-Team: Top Performers at Every Position

There was no shortage of options for the All-Week 6 first team, which makes sense after a three-day stretch that ranks among the craziest in college football history.

Four of the top six, five of the top eight and 11 of the top 19 teams in the Associated Press Poll went down in the span of 80 hours, which means 11 teams played well enough to beat Top 19 teams in the span of 80 hours. And what are those 11 teams if not the aggregate of their standout performers?

This list attempts to reward impressive teams and units but ultimately comes down to individual performance.

Ole Miss, for example, might well have been the most impressive team of the weekend, but it didn't place a single player on these teams. Bo Wallace played well, but other quarterbacks played better. Senquez Golson made an amazing interception, but other cornerbacks did more. Only by adding up all the Rebels' very good solo performances do you end up with the team that beat Alabama.

As always, the list also weighed statistics against opponent. The player who passed or rushed for the most yards didn't necessarily get the nod at quarterback or running back. It depends whom they logged those yards against and how they looked in doing it.

Sound off below to let us know whom you would add.

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5 1-Loss Teams with the Best Chance to Make the College Football Playoff

Well, that was interesting. 

Week 6 of the college football season was its most chaotic yet. Eleven Top 25 teams lost, five of which were ranked in the Top 10. According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN, this was the first time five of the AP poll's Top Eight teams lost in the same weekend in the regular season. 

Normally, that might have sounded the death knell for a team's BCS chances, but the four-team postseason field means teams can get mulligans. 

It's hard to be perfect, no matter the schedule. Week 6 was proof of that, if nothing else. One-loss teams are still very much alive in this postseason race. For that matter, two-loss teams could still be in the conversation. 

Which one-loss teams still have the best shot at a playoff appearance? The answers are in the following slides. 

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