ORLANDO, Fla. — Notre Dame has played all but eight power-five teams.
On Saturday in the Camping World Bowl, No. 15 Notre Dame will get to cross another team off that list when it plays Iowa State.
Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly was asked Friday at a joint news conference with Matt Campbell if he was excited to get the opportunity to play Iowa State and bring that number down to seven.
“I'd rather play Coe College,” Kelly said with a chuckle. Kelly is somewhat familiar with Cedar Rapids — he spoke to Notre Dame fans in the Cedar Rapids area in the spring of 2010 at the Cedar Rapids Country Club.
“No disrespect to Coe,” Kelly continued, realizing the minor hole he had just dug himself. “I'm going to get a ton of Coe grads that are going to beat me up on this one.”
Right you were, Mr. Kelly.
In what seemed like pre-planned unison, Coe alumni took to Twitter once they saw the quotes and tweeted about Fred Jackson — the most famous Coe football player, who spent nine seasons in the NFL.
If that wasn’t enough, Coe Football tweeted, “Bring it on,” and Coe coach Tyler Staker said his team has the first weeks of 2022 and 2023 seasons open and offered a home-and-home series to Notre Dame.
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Seeing Notre Dame, one of the most prestigious programs in the country, playing at the 2,200-seat Clark Field would be a sight to behold.
Kelly’s larger point about how he’d rather play Coe was that Iowa State is a much better team than its 7-5 record would lead people to believe.
“Iowa State is not necessarily on the list of teams that you want to play for the first time,” Kelly said. “I think nationally, they haven't gotten the credit that they deserve, but I think those that watch football and understand the game know, this is a team that has a number of traits that you can't put down on paper.”
Kelly sited the fact that Iowa State plays hard for all four quarters, which is a cliche, but Iowa State is one of the best fourth-quarter teams in the country — in large part because they keep playing.
“They play with confidence, they play with a belief that they're going to find a way to win, and they play with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder,” Kelly said. “And maybe that's because of the conference that they're in. Maybe they don't feel like they get the kind of notoriety that they deserve. ..."
“Their traits really trump talent in that sense and make for a very dangerous football team week in and week out.”
Iowa State defensive end Zach Petersen is a perfect embodiment of Kelly’s statement. He doesn’t have all the talent in the world, but he has all the traits of a good football player — his motor never stops
“Zach was put in a tough situation with JaQuan Bailey going down early in the football season, who is an all-conference football player,” Campbell said. “He stepped in for us in a really phenomenal way. There's times I've said Zach's played as good as anybody on our defense throughout the year.
“His consistency, his discipline, his toughness, those are the traits that we want in a young man that plays in our football program and Zach's done a great job of displaying those traits week in and week out for us.”