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brian kelly notre dame football trophy
Brian Kelly loves a good rivalry trophy — especially one he can chug from
Brendan McAlinden

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Let’s make the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football schedule better

Because there is probable and possible and we have both

When the news hit on Tuesday that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a new series scheduled with the Florida Gators, a lot of fans put it in their back pocket because of the decade wait we will all have to see it being played. This isn’t unusual, but the constant drum-beating about what happened with Coastal Carolina and the BYU Cougars during the 2020 season has fans and media members looking at schedules in a whole different way.

I can’t say this enough... your pipe dream of having TBD on your favorite school’s schedule has as much chance of happening as I have of being Selina Meyer’s running mate in the next presidential election. Without diving too deep into why everyone that thinks this is a great idea and that it can be done for the good of the sport is WRONG — it’s just a logistical nightmare that athletic director’s have no cause to create for themselves.

Moving on...

So, I started thinking of ways — real ways — Notre Dame could make their football schedule better. The Irish rarely have much problem with being scheduling schools that it wants to play, so there are a lot of different routes we could take, but I think I came up with something doable. Something Jack can read and say, “That Vowles guy knows exactly what to fucking do.”

Twelve games LFG!

THE 5 ACC GAMES

Again, we have to keep this realistic, and the Irish are quite comfortable with their ACC deal as it benefits the entire athletic department (except hockey). We’ve seen years where the Irish have played 4 instead of 5 and 6 instead of 5. All of that is fine, and can continue as it averages out. I would like to see less games with Wake Forest — but you get what you pay for #goacc.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

THE BATTLE FOR THE JEWELED SHILLELAGH

The biggest no-brainer on this schedule is, of course, the USC Trojans. The Trojans biggest and shiniest “R” out there for Notre Dame, and that’s never going to change. For as much success as the Irish had in 2020, the season still felt a little hollow for me because there wasn’t a USC win in the books — or a loss to cry about. I never want to have that feeling again.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

I GUESS STANFORD IS FINE — MAYBE

There have been only three years since 1987 that Notre Dame and the Stanford Cardinal have not played (1995, 1996, 2020). This is a series that both school administrations want (just spitballing here for Stanford) and it’s fine. Ending the season in California every year is a dumb concept in 2021, so I would push for a September or October visit to Palo Alto. If Stanford doesn’t like it, offer it to the Washington Huskies. After all, Washington is 0-8 against Notre Dame all-time, and it’s only fair to let them try and get at least one win against the Irish. Maybe after a 30 year run they will surprise you?

YouTube WatchND

SHAMROCK THE MILITARY

Now that we have the easy part done — let’s throw some gas on this fire and purify a blessed schedule. Two of the biggest problems with Notre Dame’s schedule over the years are:

While it took a global pandemic to wipe both off of Notre Dame’s slate in 2020, these two things are probably sticking around like herpes. So, instead of living in a beautiful fantasyland paradise, I’m forced to deal with this nonsense.

It’s time to do what Notre Dame should have done at least 25 years ago...

Make the academies part of a three school rotation — and only play those games as part of the Shamrock Series. This way each player that plays four years at Notre Dame will have the honor of playing each of the academies at least once during their time in South Bend. Army, Air Force, and Navy in stadiums all over the country while wearing uniforms that may (or may not) make sense. It’s for you — it’s for America.

NCAA FOOTBALL: NOV 12 Shamrock Series - Army v Notre Dame Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

THE MIDWEST RIVALRY TROPHY ROTATION

If I truly had my way, I would make the Michigan State Spartans an annual game again. I’ve always placed Sparty just right below USC in the Notre Dame Rivalry category, and it sucks that they aren’t there to fight each year. Other people are more remiss about the Michigan Wolverines, and idiots would claim the Purdue Boilermakers (total clowns).

We can’t make everyone happy every year, and we sure as shit don’t want to crawl back to our September Big 10 moonlighting ways, so let’s have another rotation revolution. Like with the academies, a three team rotation should be used here — but no Shamrock nonsense will be needed — we have rivalry trophies for that special kind of fun. Purdue game is the Shillelagh, Michigan State game is the Megaphone, and now we have Michigan and the Big Jar of Hate (see lead image please).

Subway Domer

ANOTHER OTHER ROUND OF 3

With three games left on the schedule, Notre Dame has a lot of flexibility with the way in which they cap this off. This is also the spot where the game you scheduled a decade ago may tilt the entire balance of the schedule too far over on the difficult side — or also like you’re stacking cupcakes on cupcakes.

The methodology is simple:

  • 1 “cupcake”. This would typically be defined by a MAC school, but Notre Dame should also look to the Sun Belt and Mountain West for a little more flavor.
  • 1 “mid-tier”. The most obvious choice here is an American Athletic Conference program, but they should also look to historically mediocre teams in the Big 12. The BYU Cougars is another example as an Independent.
  • 1 “big dog”. The schedule up to now probably already has a couple of really good opponents, but here’s where the Alabama Crimson Tide, Ohio State Buckeyes, Texas Longhorns (lol), and other high profile programs fit in.
Texas v Notre Dame

ALOHA

We ain’t done y’all. Notre Dame has already proven itself a force on the Hawaiian islands when it comes to recruiting, and continues to make this state one of its priorities — even with the difficulties involved when it comes to distance. Let’s make it a little easier for Notre Dame, and provide a well-earned incentive for the sons of Hawaii.

Play Hawaii in Honolulu as a 13th game every third year. Like the other trinities of the Midwest and Armed Services, this gives everyone on the team a chance to play in Hawaii at least one time during their Notre Dame career.

Football - NCAA - Sheraton Hawaii Bowl - Hawaii vs. Notre Dame Photo by Eugene Tanner/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images

A LOOK AT A 4 YEAR CYCLE

Here’s a very quickly thrown together look at a Notre Dame football schedule for a 4 year cycle with these guidelines in place:

4 year cycle

YEAR 1 YEAR 2 YEAR 3 YEAR 4
YEAR 1 YEAR 2 YEAR 3 YEAR 4
@ Michigan St. Michigan @ Purdue Michigan St.
Marshall North Carolina EMU @ BYU
NC State Arkansas St. @ Clemson Toledo
@ Virginia @ Ohio State Virginia Tech Ohio State
Stanford @ Stanford Stanford @ Stanford
Clemson Syracuse Georgia Tech Pitt
@ Pitt @ Virginia Tech @ Miami USC
BYU USC @ Wake Forest @ NC State
@ Florida @ West Virginia Florida Virginia
Army *SS Navy *SS Air Force *SS Army *SS
Boston College Florida State Cincinnati @ Floirida State
@ USC Duke @ USC Miami
- @Hawaii - -

PROBABLE AND POSSIBLE

This was just a mental exercise I was kicking around with myself the other night. I started thinking about schedules and just how complex they really are. The notion that half or more schools in the FBS would leave a TBD date open to schedule on the fly like BYU and Coastal did is absolutely absurd in the real world moving forward. These schedules I just came up with are 100 times more possible and 1000 times more probable than playing hot potato in in the future. The logistics alone are insane in a non-pandemic year. Plus, any on the fly game scheduled will likely have an effect on future schedules because SOMEONE is going to want a return trip back to their house at some point.

I started this just to imagine a possible way forward with adjustments that I think would benefit the program — and I think I accomplished that goal. I’m sure plenty of people out there will certainly see it a lot different — and that’s fine — but I challenge you to come up with something as complicated as a 4 year cycle that makes sense, and let’s see what you come up with.

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