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USC v Notre Dame Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

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How Should Notre Dame Football schedule its rivals?

How often do we really want to see these guys?

As we’ve discussed here at One Foot Down, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a lot of “little R” football rivalries in addition to their primary beef, which is with the USC Trojans. That rivalry isn’t going anywhere and it shouldn’t, but as far as the rest are concerned, anything goes. We all have our opinions on how often we’d like to see these teams on the schedule. Today we’re going to go through these teams and assess, in an ideal world, how often we’d like to play them.

USC Trojans

Current status: every year

Ideal status: every year

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 USC at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The only thing I would change about this series would be to make it a consistent rivalry-week matchup, moving the odd-year games in South Bend to the last week of the season. Beyond that, this rivalry as currently constituted is perfect.

Stanford Cardinal

Current status: every year

Ideal status: every year*

Notre Dame v Stanford Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

*Under the condition that games at Palo Alto are no longer season finales.

Notre Dame’s other California rival is likewise scheduled on an every-year basis, although the current contract is running out soon. I enjoy the series with the Cardinal, but Notre Dame’s insistence on ending every season in California is a misbegotten experiment that needs to end. If the Cardinal would agree to resuming the series on an every-year basis as an exclusively early or mid-season matchup, I’d love to see that. If not, I’d see this series become a recurring home-and-home over maintaining the current arrangement.

Navy Midshipmen

Current status: every year

Ideal status: every four years

Navy v Notre Dame Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Whether Navy is truly a rival of Notre Dame is a question for fans to decide, but the series is certainly...a thing. Defenders point to its long history and the friendly relationship between the two schools. Detractors point to the fact that the game is essentially all risk (the Middies are always an upset threat and preparing for their offense requires a huge adjustment in defensive coaching midseason) and no reward (as we saw last year, the Irish can beat the hell out of a ranked Navy team and still receive no bump in the polls), taking up a yearly spot on Notre Dame’s crowded schedule with essentially no benefit.

I think there is a good settlement to this issue, one which addresses the concerns of both parties: play Navy every four years. This would continue the series and honor the history between the two schools, making sure every player for the Irish participated in it. Meanwhile, the Irish would have an extra spot on the schedule in the three remaining years and avoid the yearly headache posed by the Navy game.

Boston College Eagles

Current status: periodic

Ideal status: periodic

Boston College v Notre Dame Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

I am indifferent about this rivalry, which I suppose makes me like most Notre Dame fans. I didn’t grow up in a Catholic family or community, so I’m not party to any old grudges regarding the two schools’ mutual standing as prominent Catholic universities. The Eagles are a perennially mediocre team and you need a few of those on the schedule, so I’m fine with them rotating in and out, but I don’t need to see them any more often than we already do.

Pittsburgh Panthers

Current status: periodic

Ideal status: as infrequently as possible

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 13 Pitt at Notre Dame Photo by Marcus Snowden/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Remember what I said about the Navy series being all risk and no reward? That’s even more true of games against the Pitt Superweapon, which will routinely lose 5-8 games per year but still inexplicably pull off an upset against a much better team. The matchup isn’t fun, it never garners national attention unless it’s an upset scare and it’s never an easy roll-’em-over win, either. I recognize that the current arrangement with the ACC requires the Irish to play Pitt every few years; they should fulfill the minimum of that obligation and nothing more.

Miami Hurricanes

Current status: periodic and infrequent

Ideal status: periodic and frequent

NCAA FOOTBALL: OCT 29 Miami at Notre Dame Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While Notre Dame’s deal with the ACC has given us no shortage of matchups with the dregs of the conference, games against its flagship programs - the Clemson Tigers, Florida State Seminoles and the Hurricanes - have been relatively few and far between. That’s a shame, because the Miami rivalry is a fun one that, despite being decades removed from its peak, still has a fun ring to it and still has residual hate. Similar to the USC rivalry, beating the ‘Canes always feels and sounds good, even in a down year. An every-year series would be too much, but it would be nice if the ACC would give us the ‘Canes as frequently as it did, say, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

Purdue Boilermakers

Current status: irregular home-and-homes

Ideal status: 4-6 times per decade

Purdue v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Purdue was always the least exciting matchup of Notre Dame’s early-season Big Ten gauntlet, but it also played an important role on the schedule, providing a usually-easy tune-up game in even years and a legit, but always winnable road game in odd ones. Unlike Pitt or Navy, the Boilers don’t have a strong upset factor in their favor either. They were a known quantity, and it helps to have a team like that on the ledger when you’re building a schedule. I don’t need to see them every year, but it would be nice to see this renewed on a frequent basis, 4-6 times per year. Thankfully, that appears to already be the case in the 2020s, with six games occurring between 2021 and 2028.

Michigan State Spartans

Current status: irregular home-and-homes

Ideal status: every year

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 23 Notre Dame at Michigan State Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I’ve already made my sentiments known on this subject, but just to reiterate: I would love to see the Michigan State series renewed on an every-year basis. I would even be interested in seeing it become Notre Dame’s rivalry-week matchup (at least in odd years), if the current arrangement with Stanford ends and USC still cannot be coaxed into travelling east of the Rockies in November.

The Sparty series was always fun, reliably crazy, and produced some great games; and unlike the Pitt or Navy series, it was a matchup of teams that were, if not equals, at least both regular participants on the national scene. It featured real hate on both sides, and it was relatively local. With the Spartans having no true rival beyond their perpetually disinterested neighbors in Ann Arbor, bringing the Irish back on a regular basis would help them as well. Let’s make it happen.

Michigan Wolverines

Current status: very infrequent home-and-homes

Ideal status: every year

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 26 Notre Dame at Michigan Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I hate Michigan. The only thing I hate more than Michigan is the fact that last year’s putrid box score is going to remain unanswered until 2033. This cannot be allowed to stand; no loss to the Skunkbears should ever be allowed to stand. This is the kind of hate that demands an every-year rivalry, and honestly it has felt wrong when in recent years I have looked at Notre Dame’s schedules and not seen Michigan’s name; not felt that immediate, familiar, lovely revulsion.

In short: I hate Michigan, and therefore I insist that Notre Dame play and beat them as frequently as possible.

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