Schedule Submission #4
@Navy (Meadowlands) - Protected Rival
@Wisconsin - Home and Home
Purdue - Home and Home
@Virginia - Home and Home
UAB - Home only
@Texas - Home and Home
SMU - Home only
@Miami - Home and Home
Florida - Home and Home
Kansas - (Arrowhead Stadium) Shamrock Series
Southern Cal - Protected Rival
@Cal - Home and Home
Only Navy and Southern Cal will stay on the schedule every season. I'd have us open the season with Navy every year to get the triple option headache over with right away. This would also allow us to play them before the season-long wear and tear mounts up. In a departure from current tradition, Stanford would no longer be an every season game. In my ideal world, UCLA, Cal, as well as Stanford would provide a west coast trip in seasons we host Southern Cal. Additionally, I'd have us play some of the traditional Big Ten opponents like Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue, but I'd never have more than one of these schools on the schedule in a given year.
Focus on the Midwest:
I tried to create some geographic diversity, especially with the road trips, but I still have the Irish playing three opponents from the Midwest. Wisconsin has been a very good team lately, and Madison is a fantastic college town. In other seasons, teams like Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, and Northwestern could fill this slot. With Purdue, another Big Ten team filling a spot on the schedule, adding Kansas (which is stretching the definition of Midwest anyway) might be overkill, but I describe my reasons for adding the Jayhawks in the next section. In a normal season, I'd have just two games against Midwestern opponents.
By having Arrowhead host a KU-ND game, I kept the Shamrock Series, and used it to give my hometown a Notre Dame game against the team I grew up rooting for. Is this a just a thin excuse to take my college friends to Joe's KC, and have Boulevard Beer at a tailgate with friends from high school? Maybe. The Navy "road" game provides another neutral site game, this one on the east coast in NYC.
Structure and Selection of Opponents
While having twelve games against power house teams sounds fun in theory, it's not practical for actually competing for a playoff spot. I wanted to have 4-5 games against top level opponents, 3-4 against lower level P5 opponents, and 2-3 against non-power conference FBS opponents (no FCS teams allowed). Southern Cal and Navy fill one spot each at the top and bottom of the schedule every season. Lastly, I wanted to play at least one opponent from every P5 conference. I considered potential recruiting trips as well, but they weren't as important to me as the other factors.
I started by looking for four to five marquee opponents that included at least two road trips that would be as fun to attend in person as they would be to watch on TV. The games in Austin and Madison fit this perfectly as both are perennially at the top of the list of America's Greatest College Towns. With the Big XII and Big Ten represented, I wanted to mix teams from the other power conferences. Since Southern Cal is already included, I added Florida to round out the top of the schedule both for recruiting reasons and to get a big time SEC team on the schedule.
In the middle of the schedule, I added Virginia and Miami to get some ACC teams on board. Neither have been world beaters lately, but both provide something for the ND schedule. Miami gives us a game in Florida for recruiting purposes, Charlottesville is a fantastic town, and a game against UVA works from an academic perspective (if you care about that sort of thing). Purdue is the last team in the middle group of the schedule. I originally had Michigan State in this slot, but since the Spartans have been so good recently, I switched them out for Purdue in the interest of making the schedule a bit more manageable. For the bottom, I chose SMU so the Irish would have another game against a Texas school, and UAB to help them out after their program was axed by the Alabama Board of Trustees. The schedule has trips to NYC, and the recruiting areas of Texas, Florida, and California, marquee home games both early and late in the season, and a nice mix of opponents from around the country. I tried to alternate home and away games as much as possible, and sandwich big time opponents with easier games. The Irish would have back-to-back away games to open the season, but considering that the Navy game is at a neutral site, and should be filled with ND fans, I wasn't overly concerned. Lastly, while it would never happen in real life, a huge feature is that the schedule has both Florida and Southern Cal coming to South Bend in November.