We’d like to thank Jessica Smetana for joining us today to answer a few questions. Jessica is a producer and meme lord with Meadowlark Media and the Dan Le Batard Show, and the cohost of DNF, the best F1 podcast I’ve listened to. Jessica is a Notre Dame grad, but she does cheer for the Tigers when we aren’t playing ND!
1. Notre Dame has been hard to pin down. They had a good effort against an Ohio State offense that has destroyed almost everything in its path, losses to not good Marshall and Stanford teams, and then this dominant win over Syracuse. What’s been the reason for inconsistency and what should Clemson fans expect?
Starting off with the question most Notre Dame fans have been asking themselves!
The truth is, I don’t know if anyone knows what to expect against Clemson. Notre Dame has at times played sound and solid football, but also has struggled mightily with their offensive production. I know Clemson fans can relate. When Notre Dame lost starting quarterback Tyler Buchner in week 2 against Marshall, Drew Pyne stepped into a role that he has at times seemed suited for, and at times struggled with greatly. In his first three starts, Pyne completed over 70% of passes. In his last three starts, it has been under 50%.
Against Syracuse, North Carolina, and BYU, Notre Dame’s run game showed tremendous progress behind an offensive line that has improved each week. The pass game can be predictable - when you have a player like Michael Mayer, it’s safe to assume the ball will end up in his hands at some point - but also has been enough to win against 5 of the last 6 opponents. The Stanford loss at home was inexplicable.
Whether Notre Dame can be successful Saturday will depend on whether Pyne can protect himself and the football, and whether Offensive Coordinator Tommy Rees has any tricks up his sleeve to keep the Clemson defense on their toes.
2. How do Notre Dame fans feel in general about Marcus Freeman? Were a lot of fans excited about his hire after Brian Kelly left?
Marcus Freeman has had a rocky season. Losing to Marshall in your first game at Notre Dame Stadium is not a great start to a coaching tenure. Fans are frustrated by the losses against Marshall and Stanford, but *hopefully* understand that one of the main reasons Freeman was hired was to recruit at a level above Brian Kelly. That is something that takes more than 8 weeks to play out.
Notre Dame fans have gotten used to winning 10 or more games a season. This year, the team is not even officially bowl eligible as we enter November. Winning at least three of the last four games this season will go a long way in resetting expectations heading into the long offseason.
It seemed like most fans were incredibly excited for the #FreemanEra to begin at Notre Dame. Isn’t it always better to find a new, younger, better partner when your longtime relationship ends on a sour note? Notre Dame fans are still hoping that Freeman is that guy.
3. What about this team makes you optimistic about ND pulling off the upset? What makes you pessimistic?
I’m optimistic because the Notre Dame team that beat Syracuse and North Carolina on the road might show up.
I’m pessimistic because the Notre Dame team that lost to Marshall and Stanford at home might show up.
4. What’s your score prediction?
The last time I predicted a score for a Notre Dame game was three weeks ago. I said Notre Dame would beat Stanford 40-13. They lost 16-14.
5. Now for the fun off-field stuff. For most Clemson fans this will probably be their first trip to South Bend. Where do you recommend grabbing drinks and/or food throughout the weekend?
The iconic Linebacker Lounge on Angela Street has hosted many a visiting fan. Downtown South Bend has a handful of great restaurants if you are nearby. Eddy Street Commons, located directly south of campus, has bars and restaurants within walking distance of campus. One of my favorite restaurants when I was a student was Evil Czech Brewery in Mishawaka. The Pizza at Rocco’s never misses. Of course, there’s always Portillo’s.
6. What is the tailgating set up like? Are some lots more wild and full of students and some are more family oriented, or is it kind of a mix everywhere?
The biggest tailgating lots are directly south of Notre Dame Stadium. You’ll find a mix of everything there. The campus is a lot like Clemson, in that everything is pretty walkable (though mercifully no hills).
If it’s your first time at Notre Dame, I recommend going on a self-guided walking tour of campus. Walk north from the tailgate lots up Notre Dame Avenue to the Main Building (Golden Dome) and Basilica, and down the path between the two buildings to the Grotto and the lakes. Take a picture in front of “Touchdown Jesus,” located directly north of the Stadium and East of the Golden Dome. The Bookstore has all of the Notre Dame monogrammed items you can dream of. Then go grab a beer at the Backer!
7. Do you have any tips regarding where to park or getting a parking pass?
No, I just show up at whichever tailgate will have me.
Thanks again to Jessica Smetana for taking the time to answer some of our questions. You can find Jessica on twitter @jessica_smetana.