Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 1, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 8 of 55 OCT. 1, 2018 9 UNDER THE DOME Regular, Yes; Yearly, No By Lou Somogyi There are three mainstays on Notre Dame foot- ball schedules: archrival USC, Navy and Stanford. The intense rivalry with USC began in 1926. The Navy series commenced in 1927 and will celebrate its 100th consecutive meeting in 2026. As for Stanford, the Fighting Irish and Cardinal met for only the fifth time … in 1988? Yet it has become an "untouchable" on the schedule. While I can appreciate the respect for Stanford as the nation's preeminent academic and athletic institu- tion, and the embodiment of the type of opponent Notre Dame wants, I have a tougher time with it being an annual game. Regional schools such as Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue, among others, have been far more prominent in Notre Dame's football history. However, with the Fighting Irish joining the ACC in 2014 as a partial member in the sport, those meetings now are in spurts. It should be the same with Stanford. Playing them in a four-game series over 10 years would be fine, while adding other new foes such as Washing- ton, Oregon, Boise State, or someone from the Big 12 or Big Ten, to give the schedule a little more flexibility as an independent would be ideal to me. One catch: I don't want it to end while Stanford has Notre Dame's number — 7-2 over the Irish since 2009 — lest the Cardinal think the school is run- ning away from it. Get back to reclaiming the series here, and then make it more of a part-time deal. Keeping Stanford Is A Necessity By Bryan Driskell The main reason to keep Stanford on the sched- ule is obvious — the Cardinal is a legit top-25 opponent every year. Beating Stanford is always a résumé builder, and the Cardinal serve as a good measuring stick for the Fighting Irish. Stanford is what Notre Dame should be, or at least they are closer to being what Notre Dame should be. Going back to the final season of Jim Harbaugh's tenure in Palo Alto (2010) and the beginning of the David Shaw era, the Cardinal have won three Pac-12 titles, have had six seasons with at least 10 wins and had five top-10 finishes. Only once during that period has Stanford fin- ished lower than 20th in the final polls, and it has done it with physical football and strong defense while not sacrificing its academic standards or lowering its admissions standards for athletes. These are all things that Notre Dame should as- pire to, and the Irish have certain advantages that Stanford will never have. It has a bigger fan base, better facilities, more money for the athletics program and a national schedule. What better way to evaluate where you are as a program than to go toe- to-toe on a yearly basis against that kind of team? Even if Stanford falls back, Notre Dame should still play the Cardinal be- cause both schools are like minded in their desire to remain top-notch aca- demic programs. Getting a yearly trip out to the West Coast certainly doesn't hurt recruiting opportunities either. Point ✦ Counterpoint: SHOULD STANFORD REMAIN A YEARLY OPPONENT? Scott Wright, the founder of DraftCountdown. com, is one of the more respected NFL Draft ana- lysts in the country. Wright, a native of Minnesota, has been covering the draft for two decades. He provided Blue & Gold Illustrated with an early look at the draft prospects of five Irish players. BGI: Where do you see fifth-year senior guard Alex Bars getting selected in the 2019 NFL Draft? Wright: "Bars is not nearly as talented or the pro prospect that Quenton Nelson was, but very few are. I do think Bars will be drafted, though, most likely on day three. "One thing that will work in Bars' favor is his versatility. Being able to see action at either guard or tackle could ultimately be the key to him mak- ing a roster and having a career at the next level." BGI: What are senior defensive lineman Jerry Tillery's draft prospects right now? Wright: "Tillery could end up being the pros- pect that [former Irish defensive lineman Jarron] Jones was supposed to be. They are actually simi- lar jumbo athletes, but the difference is Tillery is translating those physical tools into on-field production. In fact, he's had some downright dominant performances the last couple of years. "If Tillery keeps it up I think he has a really good shot at being a second- or third-round pick. One concern some teams may have with Tillery is that he is a renaissance man with a lot of interests beyond football. Only in the NFL would that be considered a red flag, but unfortunately that's the reality." BGI: What are your thoughts on senior line- backer Te'von Coney's draft stock and skill set? Wright: "Coney will be either a day two or early day three pick, so rounds two through five. That is a pretty wide range, but he will have to answer questions about his speed and range during the pre-draft process to make the higher end of that spectrum. "Ten or 15 years ago, Coney might have been a more highly regarded pro prospect, but the game has evolved." BGI: Where do you see fifth-year senor line- backer Drue Tranquill slotting in on the next level? Wright: "[Former Irish standout] James On- wualu is a decent comparison for Tranquill in that they are both undersized linebackers with top in- tangibles who move well. That skill set has value in the NFL, but Onwualu went undrafted before earning a spot with the Chargers, and he didn't have the durability concerns that Tranquill does. "With that said, Tranquill is the type of line- backer the league is looking for these days. I wouldn't be shocked if he was selected at some point on day three. I would lean more toward priority free agent right now, though." BGI: What is the buzz around junior cornerback Julian Love's skill set and potential draft stock? Wright: "Love might be the country's premier ball hawk in the secondary and looks like a future early round pick. It's difficult to gauge the land- scape at the cornerback position this early be- cause it's impacted so greatly by underclassmen. "As with most cover guys, Love will have to run well in workouts — but I think he has top-50 overall potential." — Corey Bodden Five Questions With … NFL DRAFT ANALYST SCOTT WRIGHT Wright started what would later become in 1997 while still in high school. PHOTO COURTESY SCOTT WRIGHT Stanford has been on Notre Dame's football sched- ule every year since 1997. Is it a rivalry that should be annual, just like USC and Navy? PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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