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“What If” Week: Playing the Leaked Notre Dame Football Schedule, Part 4

With six games to fill, it’s getting more difficult to pair fantasy with reality.

LIFESTYLE-US-FASHION-LEISURE-RETAIL Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images

In February 2008, a NDNation.com 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
2014: 7-5
2014-A: 8-4
2015: 10-2
2015-A: 10-2
2016: 4-8
2016-A: 7-5

Reality: 69-40
Alternate reality: 76-33

So let’s look at 2017.

2017 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?
9/2/2017 OPEN Temple Home NO NO
9/9/2017 Michigan Away Georgia Home NO NO
9/16/2017 Arizona State Home Boston College Away NO NO
9/23/2017 Michigan State Home Michigan State Away YES NO
9/30/2017 Connecticut Neutral (Foxboro) Miami (OH) Home NO NO
10/7/2017 OPEN North Carolina Away NO NO
10/14/2017 OPEN or USC OPEN YES YES
10/21/2017 Navy Home USC Home NO YES
10/28/2017 OPEN N.C. State Home NO NO
11/4/2017 OPEN Wake Forest Home NO NO
11/11/2017 OPEN Miami (FL) Away NO NO
11/18/2017 OPEN Navy Home NO NO
11/25/2017 Stanford Away Stanford Away YES YES

I’ve got five holes to fill in this schedule, including three home games and two away games. I’ve been neglecting Purdue, despite Heisler’s edict. There’s no logical way to match their final 2017 schedule with our alternative schedule, so I’m going to prioritize as many Big East schools as I can.

Notre Dame is going to, therefore, open its 2017-A season at home against the Syracuse Orange, with a return engagement to Giants Stadium now scheduled for 2018-A.

The Orange were 4-8 that season, so the Irish cruise in their home opener in this alternate reality. Notre Dame beats Michigan in the Big House, avenging their 2015-A road defeat, and then beats Arizona State at home.

Notre Dame beat the Michigan State Spartans in the real 2017, so I don’t believe playing them at home instead of in Spartan Stadium changes the outcome. No surprise here: Connecticut is again a garbage football team, so the Irish are now 5-0 without having really played anyone good.

The Irish have a bye week before playing USC. Changing the USC game from Oct. 21 (when it was actually played) to Oct. 14 is theoretically doable, only because I actually did the exercise. (It involves changing the schedules of ten other Pac-12 teams.)

That game was a blowout in reality, so the Irish are 6-0. But are they actually any good?

Beating Navy — which finished 7-6 that year in reality — won’t prove anything, but the Irish advance to 7-0 before four open dates (two home, two away) I’ve got to fill.

I’ve got issues, because these four weekends are typically reserved for intraconference skirmishes. None of the Big East teams from 2008 who moved over to the ACC played Notre Dame in the real 2017, so I can’t take a shortcut for my alternate schedule.

In reality, the Cincinnati Bearcats played in Ann Arbor on Sept. 9. In this alternate reality, that’s Notre Dame’s weekend. So the Bearcats need a road game against a program at (or above) Michigan’s stature, and they used to be in the Big East. Score! They’ll come to Notre Dame on Oct. 28. And lose (because they went 4-8 this season).

Notre Dame is now 8-0, with the win against USC being their best.

I need at least two more away games, so I’ll send the Irish to Heinz Field on Nov. 4 to play the Pittsburgh Panthers. (In reality, they were off this week.) For purposes of this exercise, they’ll probably have to lose their non-conference game against Oklahoma State on Sept. 23 to make this schedule work out.

The 4-8 Panthers knocked off the Miami-Florida Hurricanes in the same year the ‘Canes lit up Notre Dame. Could tricky Pitt pull the upset? Absolutely.

Their perfect season dashed by Pat Narduzzi and company, the Irish travel to Tampa for a return date with the South Florida Bulls. The Bulls, in Charlie Strong’s first year, have a good record. But the Irish are better, according to FEI and S&P+. I’ll take the Irish to improve to 9-1.

Kevin White has returned Stanford to the schedule to finish the season, so I’ve got one game left to schedule. If I follow the 7-4-1 scenario, it should be a home game. Here are the teams with a bye week: Colorado Buffaloes, Washington State Cougars, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Georgia State Panthers and Troy Trojans.

The Buffaloes haven’t played the Irish since the 1995 Fiesta Bowl — Holtz’s first green jersey game — so let’s set up a home and home with them. Colorado was 5-7 this year, with a loss to USC.

The Irish head to Palo Alto at 10-1, which is a loss as it was in reality.

Notre Dame finishes 10-2 in 2017-A. (They were 9-3 in reality.)