As we do every bowl season, we’re reaching out to other SB Nation blogs that play TCU’s bowl opponent on a regular basis to get some “enemy’s enemies” perspective.
One of Stanford’s seasonal out of conference rivals is Notre Dame. So we reached out to One Foot Down to see if they’d be interested, and Pat Sullivan responded with some great answers. Check them out below!
Check out more in this series here: USC | Oregon
Jamie Plunkett: Notre Dame fell to Stanford this season 38-20, but actually out-gained the Cardinal on the night. Turnovers cost the Irish, it seems. What did Stanford do to force those turnovers at inopportune times?
Pat Sullivan: Their defense took advantage of an inconsistent-at-best Notre Dame passing attack. QB Brandon Wimbush did not finish the season well at all (i.e., he finished terribly), and yet Stanford did enough stopping the run (DL Harrison Phillips was big there, as were Peter Kalambayi and Bobby Okereke) to force Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Chip Long into their bad habits of slinging the ball all over the field with a QB who isn't ready to do that.
Stanford's got a great secondary full of ball hawks like Justin Reid, Ben Edwards, Quenton Meeks, and Frank Buncom, and so if you have a QB who's going to be inaccurate or make bad decisions with his arm, they will absolutely make you pay.
JP: Notre Dame has the overall head-to-head against Stanford, 18-13, but the Cardinal have won the last three, and four of the last five. What has made them such a tough beat for the Irish?
PS: I think Stanford is always tough because they've had the same identity and system for years now and they continue to bring in the right personnel to run it.
Jim Harbaugh started this culture of tough, smashmouth, pro-style football, and that's what they've focused on being every year, including now under David Shaw. They can't recruit just anyone with Stanford's admissions standards, and so they have come up with the right profiles of athletes that can work and bring them success at a high level.
On offense, they bring in a bunch of stud offensive linemen, add a couple dynamic, hard-nosed runners like Bryce Love, and then bring in smart, game manager QBs (aside from Andrew Luck, obviously -- he was a little more than that) and big, reliable receivers (and usually one small, speedy one, e.g. Ty Montgomery). Defensively, they get a lot of strong, sure-tackling guys up front and fill their secondary with guys who know where to be and can make plays on the ball.
Add a tough, physical culture to that kind of personnel and you've got a program that will win a lot of games, despite some limitations in athleticism and speed. Notre Dame has had much less of a clear identity over the years, oftentimes gets too cute with their offense, and until this year has not had a defensive coordinator who really knew what he was doing. That will lead to a lot of losses in games against a program like Stanford.
JP: Describe what makes Bryce Love so incredible.
PS: It's hard to say, really. I mean, he's a fantastic combination of strength and speed and has a low center of gravity. But I think he also just has an incredible ability to read blocks and make cuts, and has the decisiveness to turn those reads and cuts into gains for big chunks of yards. On top of that, he has a tenacity to not go down on first contact -- he is a handful to bring down.
JP: What makes your school better than Stanford?
PS: This is a tough one. As of now, Stanford is better than Notre Dame at football, they have a much nicer location (sorry, South Bend), and rank higher in terms of academics.
Where I think Notre Dame is superior to Stanford is in the fans and the following and the tradition and the spirit.
Stanford has been really good for almost a decade now, and yet they do not have a large following compared to other programs who have had similar runs. Notre Dame, meanwhile, still manages to get 80,000 people to come watch them play despite their record of 13-11 over the past two years and their lack of a major bowl win since the early 1990s. It's definitely because Notre Dame has that rich tradition and history of being a football powerhouse, and so people are emotionally invested in the program and long for the days of having that Irish team that could win it all. Stanford really doesn't have that, and their fan support suffers because of it.
I personally also love the Catholic aspect of ND and think there's just a different energy on campus there, but the big difference that everyone can agree on is that Notre Dame's fans are much greater in quantity and in passionate support of their program than Stanford fans.
JP: What can TCU fans expect from their encounter with Stanford fans in San Antonio?
PS: Oh, they'll be fine. I've been to 4 or 5 games against Stanford in my life and have never once had a bad encounter with their fans. Can't say I have tons of positive memories of them either (this could be because there aren't as many fans making the trip to ND as there are for other teams, or maybe because lots of Hamm's Premium will have that effect on one's memory), but for the most part they're friendly and polite and you will probably have a pretty good time and be able to enjoy yourselves around them, if not with them.
JP: Brisket or pulled pork?
PS: Brisket, but if someone asked me this at a barbecue, I would absolutely just respond "both."
JP: Thoughts on who wins the game? Who will you be pulling for?
It should be an interesting game, as I think TCU and Stanford play pretty different styles of football. But I like Gary Patterson and typically root for TCU against most teams (and don't particularly like David Shaw or Stanford), so I'm goin' with the Frogs in this one. I think the way Stanford looked against USC is more indicative of how good of a team they are than how they looked against Notre Dame.