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Notre Dame, Stanford tops in football, academics

Besides football receiver T.J. Jones studies two or three hours each night Notre Dame. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

Besides football, receiver T.J. Jones studies two or three hours each night at Notre Dame. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 12, 2012 12:06PM

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Like countless other 20-year-old college students, Notre Dame wide receiver T.J. Jones likes to unwind by virtually blowing things up — maybe a little “Call of Duty” or “Resident Evil.” Also some “Sleeping Dogs” of late.

But not in the morning. He wakes up between 7:20 and 7:40 and heads straight to either a class or the weight room. No downtime at lunchtime, either. He has to eat quick and get to four hours or so of team meetings and practice, then maybe a little extra time meeting with the media. The evening? No way. Two or three hours of homework every night.

On a good day, he’s done by 10 p.m.

So when does Jones get some fun in?

“You get to play a couple video games late at night,” he said.

But not too late. Jones is asleep by midnight. Without seven hours of sleep, he’ll never make it through the next day, which is exactly the same as the one before and the one after.

“You definitely have to be a student-athlete here, not just an athlete,” lineman Chris Watt said.

It’s not like that everywhere, of course. Just last week, Ohio State’s third-string quarterback, Cardale Jones, asked on Twitter: “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.”

So perhaps it’s fitting that a week after that forehead slap of a tweet, Notre Dame and Stanford are striking a blow Saturday for smart kids everywhere. For the first time, schools ranked in the top 20 in the Associated Press football poll and on the U.S. News and World Report list of the top universities in the country will meet on the football field. ND is seventh in football and 17th in the magazine. Stanford is No. 17 and sixth.

Notre Dame also ranks first with a 99 percent graduation rate among athletes, while Stanford is seventh at 94 percent.

The Battle of the SATs is nothing new. There are plenty of great schools that also play football. Just earlier this season, Northwestern hosted Vanderbilt. Even Duke is one win from bowl eligibility. But none of those schools is in the same athletic stratosphere that Notre Dame and Stanford are in.

“Notre Dame’s a great school and Stanford’s a great school, so it’s a huge testament to both programs that they’re accomplishing good things on and off the field,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of smart guys on our team, and there’s going to be a lot of smart guys on Stanford’s team. It’s a good matchup.”

Jones actually committed to Stanford back in 2009 — helped by a recruiting pitch from Condoleezza Rice. But eventually Jones’ Notre Dame ties — his father, Andre, was a lineman on the 1988 national championship team — pulled him to South Bend. He still remembers the infamously grueling Stanford admissions process.

“I probably put about a good two weeks into my application for Stanford,” he said. “I think I had five essays I had to write. One essay’s hard enough, but writing five that are Stanford caliber, that’s where you have some difficulty.”

Such admission standards leave a relatively shallow pool of elite athletes available, and both Notre Dame and Stanford have been able to snatch up the five-star players that are also 4.0 students — whereas schools such as Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Duke and Rice haven’t.

“We’re still able to recruit top guys,” lineman Zack Martin said. “We’ve shown that over the years we can do that, and Stanford’s done the exact same thing.”

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