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“What If” Week: Playing the Leaked Notre Dame Football Schedule, Part 2

In this installment, we examine the “alternate” 2011-2013 seasons

Hollywood Museum’s “Back To The Future” Trilogy: The Exhibit Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images

In February 2008, a poster leaked a memo regarding Notre Dame Fighting Irish football schedules for the next 12 years.

Many of these games never came to fruition. But, during “What If?” week, I’m going to hypothesize how the Irish would have fared if these contests would have been played as written.

In Part I, I examined the 2008-2010 schedules.

Here’s what’s transpired so far:

2008: 7-6
2008-A: 7-6
2009: 6-6
2009-A: 6-6
2010: 7-5
2010-A: 8-4

Reality: 20-17
Alternate reality: 21-16

Now, let’s look at 2011.

2011 Schedule: Leak vs. Reality

Date Opponent Site Actual opponent Actual site Correct opponent? Correct site?
Date Opponent Site Actual opponent Actual site Correct opponent? Correct site?
9/3/2011 Purdue Away South Florida Home NO NO
9/10/2011 Michigan Away Michigan Away YES YES
9/17/2011 Michigan State Home Michigan State Home YES YES
9/24/2011 Pittsburgh Away Pittsburgh Away YES YES
10/1/2011 South Florida Home Purdue Away NO NO
10/8/2011 *BUY GAME* Home Air Force Home NO YES
10/15/2011 Army Neutral (Orlando) OPEN NO NO
10/22/2011 USC Home USC Home YES YES
10/29/2011 Rutgers or Navy Home Navy Home YES YES
11/5/2011 Connecticut Home Wake Forest Away NO NO
11/12/2011 *BUY GAME* Home Maryland Neutral (Landover, Md.) NO NO
11/19/2011 OPEN Boston College Home NO NO
11/26/2011 Stanford Away Stanford Away YES YES

In 2011-A, Notre Dame avoids a lengthy weather delay and a miserable outing against the Bulls by opening the season in West Lafayette, where the weather was fine. The Irish beat Purdue, as they did in reality later in the season, to open 1-0.

They’re 3-1 heading into the Oct. 1 matchup against the Bulls. The Bulls are 3-1 as well, but on their way to a 5-7 finish. Irish beat the Bulls in better weather.

The Irish convince the Air Force Falcons to agree to a single home game instead of a home-and-home (this will make 2013-A easier as well). They beat a miserable 2-4 Army team in Orlando, which improves Brian Kelly’s dreadful-in-reality record in Florida.

The Irish are 6-1 before their matchup against USC, which they lose. They beat Navy at home, which hasn’t changed, and are 7-2 heading into a home game against Big East foe Connecticut. The Huskies are 3-5, so it’s easy pickings.

The only Big East team with a bye on Nov. 12 is Connecticut — which the Irish just played — so the “buy game” becomes a one-off against the Maryland Terrapins at Notre Dame Stadium instead of at FedEx field. The Irish take a bye instead of playing Boston College and are now 9-2 heading into Stanford, which they lose.

The Irish finish the 2011-A regular season 9-3. (They were 8-4 in reality.)

Onto 2012!

2012 Schedule: Leak vs. Reality

Date Opponent Site Actual opponent Actual site Correct opponent? Correct site?
Date Opponent Site Actual opponent Actual site Correct opponent? Correct site?
9/1/2012 Navy Neutral (Dublin) Navy Neutral (Dublin) YES YES
9/8/2012 Purdue Home Purdue Home YES YES
9/15/2012 Michigan State Away Michigan State Away YES YES
9/22/2012 Michigan Home Michigan Home YES YES
10/6/2012 Baylor Neutral (New Orleans) Miami (FL) Neutral (Chicago) NO NO
10/13/2012 OPEN Stanford Home NO NO
10/20/2012 Pittsburgh Home BYU Home NO YES
10/27/2012 Oklahoma Away Oklahoma Away NO NO
11/3/2012 Pittsburgh Home Pittsburgh Home YES YES
11/10/2012 Pittsburgh Home Boston College Away NO NO
11/17/2012 Wake Forest Home Wake Forest Home YES YES
11/24/2012 USC Away USC Away YES YES

The first four games and the fifth week bye remain the same.

The Irish really did have an agreement-in-principle with the Baylor Bears for a game either in Arlington, Texas or New Orleans, but “it just didn’t materialize.”

In our alternate reality, the 3-1 Bears — who have just fallen out of the top 25 due to a 70-63 loss to West Virginia — are meeting the 4-0 Irish in the Sugar Bowl. The Bears would pound No. 1 Kansas State Wildcats later in the year. And although they’d finish 8-5, I’m going to say Baylor — based on its three wins over Top 25 teams — pulls the upset here.

The 2012-A schedule is interesting in that it doesn’t seem to accommodate the Stanford Cardinal. They were not a program that Heisler identified as one that would be scheduled regardless of a Big East affiliation.

In reality, Notre Dame announced on Sept. 12 that it was joining the ACC in football starting in 2014.

“The Irish are expected to protect some rivalry games (Navy, USC, Stanford) and rotate some others (Big Ten opponents, mostly),” wrote the Chicago Tribune’s Brian Hamilton the following day.

Stanford may not have been sacrosanct to Kevin White, who was the Irish athletic director at the time of the memo leak. But Jack Swarbrick, the current athletic director, does seem to make every effort to keep the Cardinal on the schedule.

Back to 2012-A. I need to fill in three “buy” games: Oct. 13, Oct. 20 and Nov. 10. The Oct. 20 is also listed as a “buy” game, but knowing what we know now about the series with the BYU Cougars, that actually fits.

I’ll steal the Cincinnati Bearcats for Oct. 13 game, since they played the FCS-level Fordham Rams in reality. I’ll steal Army for the Nov. 10 game, since they played at Rutgers that weekend.

The Irish beat Cincinnati, beat BYU, beat the Oklahoma Sooners on the road, beat Pittsburgh (narrowly in triple-overtime), beat Army, beat the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and beat USC.

Notre Dame finishes the regular season 11-1 in 2012-A.

2013 Schedule: Leaked vs. Reality

Date Opponent Site Actual opponent Actual site Correct opponent? Correct site?
Date Opponent Site Actual opponent Actual site Correct opponent? Correct site?
8/31/2013 Washington State Home Temple Home NO YES
9/7/2013 Michigan Away Michigan Away YES YES
9/14/2013 Purdue Away Purdue Home YES NO
9/21/2013 Michigan State Home Michigan State Home YES YES
9/28/2013 Oklahoma Home Oklahoma Home YES YES
10/5/2013 Arizona State Neutral (Dallas) Arizona State Neutral (Dallas) YES YES
10/12/2013 OPEN OPEN YES YES
10/19/2013 USC Home USC Home YES YES
10/26/2013 Connecticut Neutral (Foxboro) Air Force Away NO NO
11/2/2013 Navy Home Navy Home YES YES
11/9/2013 Cincinnati Home Pittsburgh Away NO NO
11/16/2013 Rutgers or Army Home* OPEN NO NO
11/23/2013 Rutgers or Army Away* BYU Home NO NO
11/30/2013 OPEN Stanford Away NO NO

Temple was an extraordinary bad football team in 2013, but the Washington State Cougars weren’t much better. I say the Irish beat the 6-7 Cougars in 2013-A, based on common opponents (Irish beat USC, 14-10; Cougars beat Trojans, 10-7; Stanford beat Notre Dame, 27-20, but beat Washington State 55-17).

The alternate realities exist pretty much the same except for the games, so Everett Golson is still suspended for the reason. Notre Dame loses to Michigan and Oklahoma, beats Purdue, Michigan State, the Arizona State Sun Devils and USC.

They are 5-2 and now heading to Foxboro, Massachusetts to play their Big East foe Connecticut instead of the higher altitude of Colorado Springs to take on Air Force. The Huskies are terrible (3-9 on the season, 0-6 entering this game), so it’s an easy Irish win.

The Irish beat Navy narrowly at home (thank you, Tarean Folston) and then host Cincinnati. (This means Stephon Tuitt’s bogus ejection never happens.) The Bearcats are 6-2 coming into the game, but the two losses were to the Illinois Fighting Illini (who will end up 4-8) and the USF Bulls (who finish 2-10).

Advantage Notre Dame.

The next two games are either at Rutgers and home against Army or vice versa. Regardless of how they are played, Notre Dame beats a hapless Rutgers team (because they did just that in the Pinstripe Bowl) and dismantles the Black Knights, who finished 3-9 in the real universe.

The Irish finish the 2013-A season at 10-2. They were 8-4 in reality.

In Part 3 tomorrow, the 2014-2016 seasons. Kelly vs. Diaco! A SEC opponent for the first time since Faust. 4-8 doesn’t exist!