Stanford Football: Q&A with Notre Dame's One Foot Down

Prepare for our Irish exit to the season

By Sam Weyen | 11-26-2021 10:26 AM PT

Photo by @NDTheLeprechaun

Our yearly bout with Notre Dame approaches, and this year the stakes are... well... lower than ever. Still, we like to do extensive research here at Channel Tree and besides, I'm still procrastinating on my "Big Shame 2021" article about last week's lesson in depression, so we reached out to Notre Dame's SB Nation affiliate "One Foot Down" for a pre-game Q&A. Enjoy this post-thanksgiving smorgasbord of content, and when you're finished check out our answers to One Foot Down's questions on their site!

The Stanford / ND rivalry has resulted in some fantastic clashes over the years. Which was your favorite game to watch? Do you think the series should continue down the line?

My answer is 2012, without question. That was my senior year at ND, and up to that point my class had had Charlie Weis’s final 6-6 season and two mediocre Brian Kelly seasons of football to root for, so it was super surprising and awesome that the team was actually very good for our final year in the student section.

And that game just had everything -- it’s still one of my favorite sporting events I’ve seen live. There was College Gameday there that morning to get us hyped up. It was a close and physical game throughout, which of course put everyone on edge. It rained on and off for most of the day and rained consistently at the end of the 4th quarter and in OT, which only made things more fun/dramatic. And then of course just the specific memories from the game, all of them awesome for us and probably fairly painful for you guys:

As far as the series between the two schools, yes I definitely would like it to continue, but I just don’t think it needs to be an annual affair. I like the idea of ND always playing their season finale on the west coast, and with it being at USC every other year, I think it’d be fun to have a rotation of Pac-12 teams to fill the off-years. 

So, essentially rotating home-and-homes with maybe a foursome of programs like Stanford, Oregon, Washington, and UCLA or something. I think that would keep things fresh while accomplishing the same goals.

ND is currently #6 in the latest CFP rankings. Without a championship game (barring another joint venture with the ACC a la last year), Stanford will be your last shot to impress the committee. What sort of outcome against Stanford (if any) could push you into a playoff spot?

I think the real answer here is that no outcome against Stanford will really move the needle in terms of helping the Irish secure a bid to this year’s College Football Playoff. I mean obviously Notre Dame needs to win, and winning in a blowout would at least put the team’s best foot forward, but I don’t think the committee really cares how the Irish do against a 3-8 opponent as long as they don’t lose or nearly lose.

Instead, it’s all about other teams and the right outcomes over the next two weeks -- the Irish need help clearing a path so that they can basically just fall ass-backwards into the top 4. Thus, you’re going to see a lot of ND fans rooting hard this weekend and next for Georgia, Wisconsin, and Baylor, and probably for East Carolina/Houston too. I personally think a 12-1 Cincy team who beat Notre Dame AT Notre Dame still deserves to make it in over the Irish, but we all know if Cincinnati loses in the next two weeks, ND (and others) will definitely jump them. The committee is ITCHING to do that and I won’t complain, even if I will feel guilty.

Speaking of the ACC, do you see ND aligning with a conference anytime soon given SEC expansion?

For now, absolutely not. Despite all the recent movement, there’s still no indication that Notre Dame will suddenly be barred access to any sort of postseason/playoff opportunities for not being in a conference.

I could see it eventually developing into a situation a couple years from now, if the new super-conferences get bolder/want to break away and do their own thing, where the Irish are only allowed to be a part of that if they join a conference. But as of now, the Irish enjoy a unique and powerful independent position in the college football landscape. AD Jack Swarbrick has as much sway over the college football world as anyone else, and so I don’t see him and the Notre Dame administration abandoning that position unless they absolutely have to do so in order to keep playing football at the highest level.

Outline how Notre Dame could lose this Saturday's game.

It seems like forever ago now, but if you’ll hearken back with me to the first half of the college football season, the Irish struggled MIGHTILY against numerous not-great teams. They barely escaped Florida State and Toledo and Virginia Tech, and for a while it looked like 10-2 or 9-3 would be the absolute ceiling for the season.

A lot of what caused that start has been corrected (offensive line changes, offense going more up-tempo to get the ball out of Jack Coan’s hands faster, defensive scheme adjustments to limit big plays, playing worse opponents, etc.), but I guess for ND to lose on Saturday it would take some of those old issues popping back up.

If Stanford can get a consistently strong pass rush, they will be able to sack Jack Coan more often than not, and probably force some turnovers in doing so. If the Cardinal can connect on some big plays over the top offensively (not completely unreasonable with Kyle Hamilton still out), it could lead to ND going back to their 3-man defensive front that’s ripe for gashing with long runs -- cough, Nathaniel Peat, cough. 

Stanford’s defense managing to bottle up the Irish run game would go a long way as well, as Kyren “Bellyman” Williams, Logan Diggs, Tyler Buchner, Chris Tyree, and even now freshman Audric Estime have all been super-successful on the ground in the last few weeks.

With all that said, I don’t see most of those things happening. The offensive line has come a long way since early in the year, and I don’t think Stanford quite has the same pass rush as someone like Wisconsin, who racked up sacks against ND. Furthermore, I know the Cardinal have a few nice playmakers on offense and McKee is no slouch, but with the Stanford offensive line looking rough and the way Marcus Freeman’s defense has given up just 9 points in 3 games, I think it will be a bit tougher sledding on Saturday for the Cardinal offense.

Biran Kelly [sic] has clearly been successful, but like Michigan’s Harbaugh he’s not quite been able to bring the program to the heights the fans demand (namely, a NY6 win). From your perspective, how do ND fans feel about his performance? 

First of all, I am obsessed with the typo in the question and will henceforth refuse to call ND’s coach anything but Biran Kelly. I love that for him.

This question is the kind that can get a rambling, 10-paragraph response from me at times because there’s a lot to discuss here, but for the sake of this being a holiday weekend I will try to keep it somewhat concise -- we shouldn’t have to do excessive, annoying reading during this time of year, right?

There are essentially two factions of ND fans: 1) a small, old-fashioned, old-in-age group who demands national title contention and wants Kelly fired for not having truly come close to even really competing with great teams in his 12 seasons at the helm, let alone winning a title; and 2) a much bigger, younger, overly-optimistic group who thinks our good friend Biran walks on water and ND could never do better in the current landscape, arguing that his 53-9 record and multiple CFP appearances since the beginning of 2017 prove we should all be perfectly happy with him.

I would say most people are part of that second group, but the first group is certainly vocal and despite being pretty miserable overall, they do make a few decent points (especially in regards to Kelly’s records being largely built on beating mediocre/bad teams while lacking wins over top-25 squads). 

Personally, I fall in between. I think Kelly is on a roll and recruiting is picking up and if he keeps making CFPs, he might eventually prove his team belongs there instead of getting blown out. I do NOT want him fired. However, I also truly believe he will never win a national championship at Notre Dame, and considering that absolutely is and should be the goal of the program, at what point do you insist that you move on? 

Yeah, it’s a risk that you might end up with another Davie or Willingham or Weis. But you gotta risk it to get the biscuit, and eventually ND will need to try to find someone new who might actually be able to take the program that final step up to the top tier of teams with Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and apparently now Georgia.

I just did a horrible job of being concise, I truly apologize.

You're hosting a Thanksgiving potluck get-together consisting of current Irish players and coaches. Which players/coaches make/bring which staple dishes (e.g. Turkey, Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Cranberry Sauce, Green Bean Casserole, Pumpkin Pie, etc.)?

Bellyman (Kyren Williams) is bringing the turkey. He’s the meat of this offense -- the main event, if you will. And Thanksgiving, like the team, is nothing without turkey/him. I will say Bellyman’s a bit edgier and more exciting as a person than turkey is as a food, though, so maybe he’s bringing deep-fried turkey or a turducken or something???

Side Note: Bellyman is also bringing the turkey because I already designed a rivalry trophy last year in his honor/name using a Thanksgiving turkey as the base...see below:

DT Jayson Ademilola is bringing the stuffing, because he knows a lot about stuffing guys at the line of scrimmage or in the backfield. Speaking of mashing people in the backfield, DE Isaiah Foskey will take care of the mashed potatoes, you guys.

Biran Kelly is bringing the cranberry sauce, because it’s the same color as his angry face. Bonus points for both BK and cranberry sauce being people/things I personally don’t care that much for, but I know lots of people do and I feel they should continue to be part of this meal/program going forward because they help make everything work.

TE Michael Mayer is bringing pumpkin pie, because since Day 1 as a freshman in 2020 his abilities at tight end have been a sweet, sweet delight and he’s been a staple of the offense like pumpkin pie is a staple for post-Thanksgiving-meal dessert.

Other key items and their bringers: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa is obviously bringing the Hawaiian Rolls. Tommy Rees will walk in with a dynamite green bean casserole. Marcus Freeman brings an absolutely fire charcuterie board that convinces multiple recruits walking by outside to attend the gathering. And Kyle Hamilton supplies all the beer and wine for the party, because he’s a superstar.

Below is a graphic that contains every Stanford Tree costume to date (except for the most recent 2). Which is your favorite, least favorite, and why? What sort of Tree would you make if you had the choice?

First, let me say this is the best, worst, funniest, scariest, most unhinged collection of photos I’ve ever seen. Second, let me also say that I will be giving you my answers by making up names for my choices, since none of these abominations are labeled but they deserve some titles.

With that, here are my selections...

Favorite: Three-way tie between...

  • “Don’t Talk to Me Or My Son Ever Again” Tree(s) -- Row 2, Column 1
  • “Sleek, Hard-Boiled Private Eye” Tree -- Row 1, Column 7
  • “Mr. Peanut If He Stopped Shaving/Cutting His Branches” Tree -- Row 6, Column 4

Least Favorite: “DOES THAT TREE HAVE A GUN???” -- Row 5, Column 6. That’s the stuff of nightmares. I will NOT be sleeping well tonight.

Pat’s Choice: If I had the opportunity to create my own Stanford Tree, it would be a Christmas version of it, all decorated with ornaments and working lights and strings of popcorn/cranberries and an angel or star on top. Christmas is my favorite holiday, and I have a probably-wrong theory that a Christmas get-up would make the Stanford Tree at least marginally less terrifying/stupid-looking?

I’m envisioning it dancing around, passing out small presents and lumps of coal to fans (presents for Stanford fans, coal for non-Stanford fans), all while one of my favorite year-round hits, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey, blasts on loop from a speaker located in the costume’s mouth. Maybe we could add “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” by NSYNC if we want two songs on the playlist.

Any final, negative thoughts on U$C so we can end in perfect agreement?

Pete Carroll eats babies, and USC can burn in hell.

Caption: Sign posted on the door of Notre Dame’s North Dining Hall, October 2009, proving that Pete Carroll eats babies and USC is despicable for employing such a man.

--Fear The Me.

TAGS: Mariah Carey Stepfan Taylor Tyler Buchner Marcus Freeman Everett Golson Kelly Louis Nix Peanut Baylor OT Biran Kelly Virginia Tech Charlie Weis BK charcuterie board Cranberry Sauce T.J. Jones Kyle Hamilton HARD SEC
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