The School: The University of Notre Dame
Record: 2-0. Congratulations on beating Michigan, one of the few teams in this universe as bad at winning road games as Vanderbilt. Normally that would be sarcasm, but Jim Harbaugh schadenfreude is beginning to approach University of Tennessee schadenfreude as “things that warm my cold, dead heart.”
Ranking: No. 8 in the AP Top 25 and Coaches’ Poll. S&P+ has Notre Dame ranked 17th in nation and Vanderbilt ranked 23rd, which means we’ll be using S&P+ ratings from now on and the Real Time RPI never again.
Mascot: The Fighting Irish. I am all for any mascot that requires a real life, bearded student to portray him, if only for the inevitable DUI that propels this diminutive attention seeker into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. The powers that be want you to be a stereotype, kid, but only to a certain extent. When we called our team the Wife-Beating Drunks, we didn’t think you’d take us up on it.
Location: South Bend, IN. South Bend is the result of an American experiment to make a smaller, less self-aware version of Cleveland. It combines all the red state righteousness of a mid-sized midwestern city with the weekday drinking of a mill town.
And dropped in the middle you’ve got Notre Dame, which is like dropping cake eater Adam Banks onto the Mighty Ducks. But instead of slowly coming to respect and love the new, rich teammate who makes their team better, the rest of the Ducks beat him with socks stuffed with nickels whenever Coach Bombay isn’t looking. The only school with a worse student/townie dropoff in America is Yale. At least at Vanderbilt our student body is equally clueless and privileged as the population of Nashville proper.
It’s impossible to take a picture of Brian Kelly where he doesn’t look like a convict at a scared straight seminar. YOU WANT TO BE WHERE I AM, WIMBUSH? WELL I JUST BOUGHT YOU FOR A CIGARETTE. NOW GIVE ME THOSE SHOES, BITCH.
Conference: None. Notre Dame doesn’t need a conference, because the Irish have traditionally been able to bend the selection committee/BCS/pollster powers that be to their will. Which I understand is a funny complaint coming from an SEC member, but still. Back in the 2000s Charlie Weis would drop the carcasses of mid-level Big Ten programs and Navy at the feet of the BCS, then get rewarded for his low-key failure with the chance to get wrecked by double-digits in a marquee bowl.
Notre Dame’s best postseason win of the past 25 years is the Citrus Bowl. They’re 5-12 in bowl games since ‘94.
All-time vs. Vanderbilt: 2-0. Ol’ Rod Dowhower somehow worked out a home-and-home against the Irish in two seasons where Notre Dame was a preseason top 10 team. Vanderbilt won four games total those two years. In 1996, Lou Holtz only beat the Commodores by seven points, leading Lou Holtz to give up coaching (for three years, at least) at the end of the season.
In the Last 20 Years vs. Vanderbilt: N/A.
The Last Time We Saw These Guys: Notre Dame 14, Vanderbilt 7. Dowhower’s 1996 team played three top 10 teams that fall and lose to all three by seven points each. Which makes you think Vandy was almost good that year, until you realize they also got shut out by a four-win Kentucky team that averaged 220 yards of total offense per game and completed 48 percent of its passes. Now that is some “Same Old Vandy” nonsense.
Is Vandy Favored?: Come on.
Most Potent Offensive Threat: Brandon Wimbush is the kind of dual threat quarterback who can paralyze Derek Mason’s defense. Assuming Kelly ever gives him his shoes back.
Most Potent Defensive Threat: Khalid Kareem already harassed one SEC quarterback earlier this season when he sacked Shea Patterson twice.
Matchup to Watch: Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Jamauri Wakefield, and Khari Blasingame vs. the Notre Dame rush defense. The Irish held Michigan to 58 rushing yards on 33 carries in their season opener. That’s bad! But the Vaughn-Wakefield-Blasingame trio is trending upward after combining for 164 yards on 25 carries. That’s good! But it was against Nevada which ...isn’t great! If Vandy’s run game is for real, we’ll know Saturday.
Interesting Fact: Vandy hasn’t won on the road against a ranked opponent since 2007, when South Carolina climbed all the way up to No. 6 and then somehow let Mackenzi Adams (8-16, 123 yards) hang 17 first quarter points on them. It was a game so neglected it wasn’t even on television in Nashville. So anytime you feel like complaining during Saturday’s broadcast, just think about what an awful paragraph this is.
Bonus Fact!: The Studebaker National Museum is South Bend’s *other* monument to a formerly popular brand that hasn’t been relevant in decades.
If Notre Dame wins, we: Shrug it off. It’s Notre Dame. At Notre Dame. Anything above and beyond a nice national showcase for Kyle Shurmur is a win in this case.