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“What If” Week: Playing the Leaked Notre Dame Football Schedule, Part 3

In this installment, we examine the “alternate” 2014-2016 seasons.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 13 Georgia at LSU Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via 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. In Part II, I hypothesized about what would happen in 2011-2013.

Here’s what’s happened so far:

2008: 7-6
2008-A: 7-6
2009: 6-6
2009-A: 6-6
2010: 7-5
2010-A: 8-4
2011: 8-4
2011-A: 9-3
2012: 12-0
2012-A: 11-1
2013: 8-4
2013-A: 10-2

Reality: 48-25
Alternate reality: 51-22

Let’s continue with 2014.

2014 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?
8/30/2014 * BUY GAME * Home Rice Home NO YES
9/6/2014 Navy Neutral (TBD) Michigan Home NO NO
9/13/2014 Purdue Home Purdue Neutral (Indianapolis) YES NO
9/20/2014 Michigan Home Open NO NO
9/27/2014 OPEN Syracuse Neutral (East Rutherford, N.J.) NO NO
10/4/2014 * BUY GAME * Home Stanford Home NO YES
10/11/2014 Army Neutral (Orlando) North Carolina Home NO NO
10/18/2014 Connecticut Home Florida State Away NO NO
10/25/2014 Arizona State Away OPEN NO NO
11/1/2014 OPEN Navy Neutral (Landover, Md.) NO NO
11/8/2014 Pittsburgh Home Arizona State Away NO NO
11/15/2014 Rutgers Neutral (East Rutherford, N.J.) Northwestern Home NO NO
11/22/2014 * BUY GAME * Home Louisville Home NO YES
11/29/2014 USC Away USC Away YES YES

We’ll keep Rice as our first “buy” game.

Instead of playing Michigan, the Irish are beating Navy (which they did in the real 2014 anyway). They beat Purdue at home (instead of at Lucas Oil Stadium) and then play Michigan here. In this alternate reality, does this and this still happen? I’d like to think so.

Our second “buy” game coincides with what, in reality, was the Golson to Ben Koyack last-second stunner of Stanford. Stanford would never agree to a home without a return trip, so let’s put the Utah Utes here since 1) the two teams didn’t play in this reality in 2010 and 2) we know they’d agree to a home without a return.

The Irish are 4-0 heading into the game, while the Utes are 3-1. Both teams have beat Michigan. We know this Irish team is good enough to beat Stanford in reality, and Utah did the same. Both contests were three points. Utah beat USC by 3; Notre Dame will lose to the Trojans by 35.

Utah beats Notre Dame.

In reality, the ACC schedule is upon us. In this alternate reality, the Irish keep scheduling Army and Connecticut. The Black Knights remain terrible, and the Irish beat them down in Orlando (again).

The Irish host the Huskies instead of playing that epic game at Florida State. In 2014-A, this game is remembered more for Bob Diaco’s homecoming than it is the lopsided Irish win.

The Irish then travel to Tempe and get beat by the Sun Devils, before resting for a week and beating Pittsburgh at home (that is based on the Panthers’ 6-7 final record and inability to beat North Carolina, a team that 2014 Notre Dame beat).

The 7-2 Irish then travel to MetLife Stadium to face the 5-4 Scarlet Knights in a Big East showdown. They have three common opponents: Navy (Rutgers won by 7, Irish won by 10), Michigan (Rutgers won by 2, Irish won by 37*) and North Carolina (Rutgers won by 18, Irish won by 7).

Irish overcome the Scarlet Knights and improve to 8-2.

In our third and final “buy” game, we’ve got choices: Alabama Crimson Tide, Army, Auburn Tigers, BYU, Florida, South Carolina Gamecocks, Clemson Tigers, South Alabama Jaguars and the Georgia Bulldogs all played out of conference on the weekend of Nov. 22. I’ve also got some flexibility here because one of my “buy” games has to be an away game next year, so I can offer a home-and-home.

I’m going to pick Clemson, even though I know they wouldn’t schedule a team so difficult this late in the season. The Tigers beat the Irish in South Bend.

We know what happened in Los Angeles.

Notre Dame finishes 8-4 in 2014-A. (They were 7-5 in reality.)

2015 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?
9/5/2015 Missouri Home Texas Home NO YES
9/12/2015 Michigan Away Virginia Away NO YES
9/19/2015 Purdue Away Georgia Tech Home NO NO
9/26/2015 * BUY GAME * Home UMass Home NO YES
10/3/2015 Army Home Clemson Away NO NO
10/10/2015 Navy Home Navy Home YES YES
10/17/2015 USC Home USC Home YES YES
10/24/2015 Connecticut Neutral (East Rutherford, N.J.) OPEN NO NO
10/31/2015 * BUY GAME * Away Temple Away NO YES
11/7/2015 * BUY GAME * Home Pittsburgh Away NO NO
11/14/2015 Pittsburgh Away Wake Forest Home NO NO
11/21/2015 Rutgers Home Boston College Neutral (Boston) NO NO
11/28/2015 OPEN Stanford Away NO NO

Notre Dame could have never predicted this, but it’s uncanny how many times the Irish meet a team in the midst of a real garbage spell.

The Missouri Tigers are no different, finishing 5-7 in the real 2015. A loss to Michigan in the Big House presumably follows, followed by a drubbing of the Boilermakers in West Lafayette. We’ll keep the UMass Minutemen as our “buy” game for continuity’s sake.

Instead of going to Clemson to play in a literal monsoon, the Irish host the punchless Black Knights in South Bend. They then beat Navy and USC as they did in the actual 2015.

The Irish come into the Connecticut game at 6-1. Diaco still hasn’t fixed the Huskies, who will go 6-7 this year. Irish win on the neutral field at MetLife.

Here, the Irish make good on their promise to Clemson and travel down there. It’s not a monsoon, but Notre Dame still loses. They are 7-2 heading into their third and final “buy” game.

Our choices are the Boise State Broncos, BYU Cougars, Georgia Southern Eagles, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans and Southern Miss Golden Eagles.

I’m tempted to take Boise State, although they “made an effort to find Power Five programs willing to play home-and-home series” starting in 2013. However, they played the Ole Miss Rebels the year prior (2014) at a neutral site. Would they come to South Bend without a return engagement in Boise? Probably not, but the 2017-A schedule is wide open too.

Boise State would have been considered a formidable foe at the time they were scheduled, since they were 14-0 in 2009, 12-1 in 2008, 2010 and 2011 and 11-2 in 2012. Too much with Clemson and Missouri on the schedule?

I think so, so I’m going to schedule San Diego State. We’ll snap them up before the Penn State Nittany Lions do, and make them come to Notre Dame Stadium in November instead of Beaver Stadium in September. It’s right in the middle of their Mountain West Conference schedule, but it’s doable.

The Aztecs finished 2015 with an 11-3 record, but their three losses were to 8-5 California Golden Bears, 5-7 South Alabama Jaguars and the 7-6 Penn State Nittany Lions. No one in the Mountain West besides them finished better than 8-6, so I’m guessing the Aztecs got to beat up on bad teams.

I’m going to give Notre Dame the win here at home and advance them to 8-2 in 2015-A. The Irish play Pittsburgh the following week, which they did in 2015 — and won. The final game on the alternate schedule is again Rutgers, who are 4-8.

Notre Dame finishes 10-2 in 2015-A. (They were 10-2 in reality.)

2016 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?
9/3/2016 OPEN Texas Away NO NO
9/10/2016 Michigan Home Nevada Home NO YES
9/17/2016 Stanford Home Michigan State Home NO YES
9/24/2016 Michigan State Away Duke Home NO NO
10/1/2016 OPEN Syracuse Neutral (East Rutherford, N.J.) NO NO
10/8/2016 OPEN N.C. State Away NO NO
10/15/2016 Navy Neutral (TBD) Stanford Home NO NO
10/22/2016 OPEN OPEN YES YES
10/29/2016 Pittsburgh Home Miami (FL) Home NO YES
11/5/2016 Rutgers Neutral (East Rutherford, N.J.) Navy Neutral (Jacksonville) NO NO
11/12/2016 Connecticut Home Army Neutral (San Antonio) NO NO
11/19/2016 Army Neutral (TBD) Virginia Tech Home NO NO
11/26/2016 USC Away USC Away YES YES

In the leaked memo, Missouri doesn’t have a return date. Is this an oversight or did Kevin White think he’d be able to get away with one game in South Bend? That’s difficult to determine short of asking White for his recollection, which we won’t do for purposes of this assignment.

We know that the Tigers’ athletic department is working with a deficit in 2019, so they possibly could have used the payday in 2015-A. The memo already includes two true road games and three neutral site games for 2016-A, so we’re looking for only home games.

For the first game, we could keep the Texas Longhorns and offer them an appearance in Austin in 2017-A (first game) or 2019-A (second game). The Longhorns can reschedule with Maryland or LSU.

It feels like LSU is the more comparable matchup, so we’ll schedule Texas for the first game of 2016 and return the favor in 2019. (The Texas-LSU matchup wasn’t finalized until October 2014, so this feels doable.)

Now the big question: Is Texas back? Does changing the location of this game change the outcome? I suppose it depends if we keep continuity and say Malik Zaire broke his ankle against Michigan instead of Virginia — and that Brian Kelly is still doing a platoon deal with Zaire and DeShone Kizer.

Let’s call this a win, based on the real Irish’s prior year performance with a healthy Zaire and, now, in 2016-A, a capable backup in Kizer.

Notre Dame loses to Michigan at home the following weekend (figuring transitive property here because the Wolverines beat the Spartans in 2016, while the Irish did not) and loses to Stanford (because they did in the real 2016).

The Michigan State game is now in Spartan Stadium instead of at home, which does not improve my outlook on the eventual outcome.

The Irish are 1-3, with two dates to fill on Oct. 1 and Oct. 8.

For the first week, our choices are the Arkansas Razorbacks, Auburn Tigers, Boston College Eagles, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, Marshall Thundering Herd, Memphis Tigers, Ole Miss Rebels, San Diego State Aztecs, South Alabama Jaguars, Texas State Bobcats, Toledo Rockets, Tulane Green Wave, ULM Warhawks, UMass Minutemen and Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Or the Irish could play the Syracuse Orangemen, as they did in reality.

I’m going to “buy” a game against Memphis here, which stops the Mid-South Rivalry a year early.

The Irish beat the Tigers (using the transitive property in their shared game against Navy) to improve to 2-3, but come away impressed with the Tigers’ offensive coordinator.

I’ll bring N.C. State to South Bend a year earlier, which means they miss this:

Notre Dame v North Carolina State Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

It’s a dry, sunny day in Notre Dame, Indiana, and the Irish prevail to improve to 3-3.

The Irish lose to Navy at a neutral site, just as they did in the real 2016. I’ll say they also beat Pittsburgh, based solely on the fact that the Panthers beat the Orange by 15 and the Irish beat Syracuse by 17 in the real 2016. (We all know it doesn’t work this way, but I’m going to remain consistent in my logic.)

Rutgers truly sucks, so that’s an easy win for the Irish. Ditto Connecticut, a team still employing former Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco as its head coach. The real Irish beat Army, so they do so in our 2016-A, before losing to USC on the final weekend.

Notre Dame finishes 7-5 in 2016-A. (They were 4-8 in reality.)

In Part 4 tomorrow, I’ll reorganize almost the entire Pac-12 schedule and, whoo boy, a bunch of open dates now.