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Notre Dame QB Everett Golson compared to Russell Wilson

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Quarterback Everett Golson accounted for 18 touchdowns in 2012, when he guided Notre Dame to the BCS national championship game. He already has accounted for 15 in four games this season, and his high-level play has impressed Stanford coach David Shaw.

Notre Dame (4-0) plays host to Stanford (3-1) in one of the biggest games on Saturday.

"I'm not putting him on this pedestal just yet, (but) I heard someone say this the other day and I believe they're right: He reminds you of Russell Wilson," Shaw told reporters earlier this week. (NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks made that comparison here.) "You watch him run around, but he never seems panicked, he never seems to throw the ball into triple coverage. If he can get away, he gets away. If he can throw it away, he throws it away. If he can scramble for 4 yards, he scrambles for 4 yards, protects himself and gets down. He's been a handful for everyone that they play."

NFL scouts have noticed, too. In the "Sources Tell Us" feature from Sept. 24, NFL Media analysts reported that, "An NFC scouting director told us there's not an area of Everett Golson's game that hasn't improved, from footwork to arm talent to decision-making."

Golson (6-foot-0, 200 pounds) has thrown for 1,142 yards and 11 touchdowns, completing 69.6 percent of his passes, and has added 104 yards and four TDs on the ground. In 2012, Golson threw for 2,405 yards and 12 TDs, completing 58.8 percent of his passes, and added 298 yards and six TDs on the ground.

"Watching him, it's a difference of confidence, honestly," Shaw said. "I think he was really good two years ago. He's very athletic, very accurate. Hard to pin down, hard to catch in the backfield. This year, it's the same but he almost just seems composed, whereas before it seemed a little frantic. Now, he knows you can't catch him."

Stanford, though, is equipped to try.

The Cardinal have played clampdown defense, allowing just 26 points thus far. Even in a 13-10 loss to USC, the defense played well, surrendering just 291 yards. The blame for that loss should fall on Shaw -- who coached not to lose rather than to win -- and an ineffective offense.

Stanford leads the nation in total defense (198.0 yards per game), scoring defense (6.5 points per game) and pass defense (74.0 yards per game). Irish coach Brian Kelly is as impressed with Stanford's defense as Shaw is with Golson.

"Just a really good defense across the board, and I think it starts with the corners," Kelly said in his weekly news conference.

Check out the top images from the fifth weekend of college football play.

Kelly said the Cardinal "do a very good job mixing things up with their scheme -- play some zone, play some man."

Stanford starting corners Wayne Lyons (6-1, 193) and Alex Carter (6-0, 202) are big and physical, and are backstopped by one of the best strong safeties in the nation in Jordan Richards (5-11, 210). The Cardinal play physical football across the board, with end Henry Anderson (6-6, 287) and inside linebackers Blake Martinez (6-2, 247) and A.J. Tarpley (6-2, 241) also playing at a high level. Backup outside 'backer Peter Kalambayi (6-3, 245) has become a big-play guy as a redshirt freshman, and his pass rush will be important against Golson.

Kelly said big plays are a must for the Irish.

"We won't win if we don't get big 'chunk plays,' " he said. "We're not going to go 5, 7 and 10 yards and score enough points to win. ... We'll have to create opportunities and we'll have to make some plays down the field, there's no question."

But cfbstats.com shows that Stanford has allowed just five plays of 20-plus yards and two of 30-plus yards -- the fewest in the nation at each length.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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