I know we’re all prepping for the spring practice season for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football season — but that doesn’t mean we can’t look one season ahead to 2021. After all, there are thousands of you living and dying with the 2021 recruiting class and most of that class probably won’t make much of an impact in their freshman year.
So let’s talk about it.
The Irish start the season on the road against the Florida State Seminoles that’s sure to be another Labor Day night game. Notre Dame started the 2019 season in the same way against the Louisville Cardinals, and I wish they would stop doing this. The Noles will be in year 2 of the Mike Norvell era, and might actually be a good team. A good 2020 for both schools will surely create a lot of buzz for 2021.
It gets dangerous really quick for the Irish after Tallahassee. The Toledo Rockets invade South Bend on the following Saturday after FSU. In 2019, the Irish were able to have a bye week before playing the New Mexico Lobos after that year’s season opening game on Labor Day — and Toledo is no New Mexico.
After the MACtion settles down, Notre Dame takes on the Purdue Boilermakers for the first time since 2014 — which was the 68th straight game between the two and the 84th overall. It’s the battle for The Shillelagh Trophy, and I’m sure Brian Kelly will be excited for a hardware game — zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Another Shamrock Series misadventure. For all of you folks that are just so excited for Notre Dame’s game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Lambeau Field in 2020 instead of Notre Dame Stadium — you get craptastic Soldier Field instead of Camp Randall Stadium in 2021. I hope you heathens are proud of yourselves.
Notre Dame will play the Cincinnati Bearcats for the first time since 1900. Cincy may still be led by Luke Fickell — especially after he turned down the Michigan State job yesterday. There’s no return game for the Irish, so this may be the only meeting these two schools will have for another 121 years.
The Irish get back into their ACC schedule with a trip to Blacksburg against the Virginia Tech Hokies. You have to wonder about two very important things... 1) Will Justin Fuente still be the Hokie head coach and 2) Will Virginia Tech still try to pass their Metallica intro off as anything but an overplayed and overhyped piece of trash that it is? The only thing that should cause any Irish concern here is if the answer to both of those questions is “no.”
Six games in... BYE WEEK.
Seriously... is Clay Helton returning to South Bend for yet another loss to the Irish and Brian Kelly? Helton has defied all odds already, so you almost have to think he will still be there like a tardigrade in lava. I’m looking forward to the 5th win in a row for the Irish in the Battle of the Jeweled Shillelagh — and maybe they will actually bring the damn thing to the field this time around. BRING IT TO THE FIELD BK!
The North Carolina Tar Heels and the defiant Mack Brown are next up on the schedule for a matchup in South Bend. The Sam Howell hype could be very real by this point, and a week after the SC game seems like a dangerous place. PREDICTION: Notre Dame wins 43-20 but the NCAA steps in and makes ND vacate the win just for shits and giggles.
Another game against the Navy Midshipmen in South Bend... but why? Oh yeah, because that Rip Miller Trophy isn’t going to form like Voltron all by itself. NEXT!
The Irish return to the scene of a bloody crime when they travel to Charlottesville to face the Virginia Cavaliers. The last time Notre Dame played here, DeShone Kizer and Will Fuller played the role of wicked heart surgeons as they ripped out the hearts of Hoos everywhere. The Irish will be playing for their 2nd Commonwealth Cup in three years, and I’m all in on that.
Senior Day for the Irish will be the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. This will be year 3 of the Not Paul Johnson era, and they could be one of those surprise teams. I mean... I highly doubt it, but I’m writing this in February of 2020, so anything is possible.
The Irish end the season in California against the Stanford Cardinal. By this time, Stanford could be down to like 65 scholarship players and a full return back to the Cardinal that we came to know as a real cupcake on the schedule. At any rate — I despise ending the season in California every year, and denounce any argument in favor as heresy.
The 2021 schedule is pretty manageable. If Tyler Buchner really does start at quarterback as a true freshman, this isn’t a terrible path to go down. Of course, that could all change in a hurry so I won’t speculate further about possible outcomes.
Notre Dame has 7 home games, 4 true road games, and 1 neutral site game. There is still time, unfortunately, for Jack Swarbrick to turn one of the home games into a Shamrock Series game. Remember, the Wisconsin game at Soldier Field is technically a Badger home game. The most likely matchup to get this Shamrock bump is probably the Cincy game. Hopefully though, Jack leaves this alone.