Notre Dame players, coaches, and fans are trying to wrap their heads around the two straight losses suffered at the hands of Michigan and Michigan State.

But challenges for Notre Dame’s are unrelenting as the Irish face their first ranked opponent of the Brian Kelly era.

Stanford Cardinal make the trip to South Bend this weekend after dispatching Sacramento State, effortlessly pounding UCLA, and dropping 68 points on Wake Forest to start the 2010 season. A cake walk they will not be.

This will be the fourth straight undefeated opponent that Notre Dame will play, and after a rocky start to Brian Kelly’s first season at Notre Dame, there's a very real desperation floating in the air as fans and foes alike contemplate a brutal 1-5 start to the season, with the match up against the Cardinal followed by battles against Boston College and Pittsburgh.

With all that in mind, it would seem to suggest that this weekend’s game is a must-win for Notre Dame.

But despite the disappointing 1-2 start and all the negativity that comes from a lack of winning, Notre Dame may still be in a good position this weekend.

After all the Irish are still in the early stages of a new coaching staff, the team is an underdog and even the most ardent most fans are not expecting a victory over a ranked opponent. Not just yet. That could play to their advantage. It would be a pretty big win in Brian Kelly’s first season.

And if the Fighting Irish pull out a victory? That could light the flame that sparks a brilliant new coaching regime. That could significantly bolster the confidence of the the team after a slow start to the season. That could be the type of victory that turns the season around.