Recently, Notre Dame finalized the next 3 seasons worth of football schedules and they caused a bit of a stir. As I’ve been want to do in the pre-bowl run up I decided to sit on this topic and mull things over for a bit. This was an especially important topic to do so because I’m really torn on the subject.
First, here’s the schedules in all their glory:
at Wake Forest
at Virginia Tech
Syracuse [Yankee Stadium, Bronx] at USC
at Navy [MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford]
at Wake Forest
Wisconsin [Lambeau Field, Green Bay] Stanford
at Georgia Tech
This Is Pretty Stupid?
Okay, so where to complain? First, next year’s 3-game stretch after Michigan is about as bad as it gets with the currently worst MAC team in the country, plus 2 of the worst historic Power 5 programs. I searched back almost 20 years looking for a worse stretch in Irish lore:
Back in simpler times the Air Force-Boston College-Rutgers trio looked awfully stinky before the season but the first two teams did finish a combined 16-8.
Pretty much the entire second half of the season prior to the trip to USC. This was a doozy of a 5-game stretch of UCLA-Navy-North Carolina-Air Force-Army combining for 36 losses among them. All 3 military academies within a month’s time isn’t a good idea.
We had much gnashing of teeth for facing a MAC team (first time ever, I believe?) with the Western Michigan-Navy-Tulsa trio. Of course, the Broncos were a pretty run-of-the-mill MAC team, Navy was modern Navy, and Tulsa was in the middle of their own modern high-water mark going 10-3.
The Wake Forest-Maryland-Boston College trio is about as boring as you can get with all Power 5 teams.
I don’t hate the Syracuse game for the travel (see more below) just more of the fact of resurrecting the Shamrock Series against this opponent in Yankee Stadium. This will be the 3rd game in 9 years inside the new Yankee Stadium and the 3rd meeting in 5 years against Syracuse with none of the meetings coming inside Notre Dame Stadium or the Carrier Dome.
The Irish did face Syracuse once in the old Yankee Stadium back in the last game of 1963 before Ara Parseghian took over the program. That day the Irish randomly wore green jerseys for the only time all year. Will we see a return to the green (plus helmet numbers!) next season in the Bronx?
Obviously, the home vs. away split could improve but this is almost always the case. Here are the marquee true home and away games for the next 3 seasons:
Home: Michigan, Stanford (2x), Florida State, USC, Virginia Tech, Arkansas, Clemson, Louisville
Away: Virginia Tech, USC (2x), Louisville, Georgia, Michigan, Stanford
With a game at Lambeau thrown in this seems pretty fine, no? The big issue I see is that the last 4 road games listed above all fall within the 2019 schedule which is quite brutal. Then again, they are almost perfectly spread out featuring a season opener, bye week, and 2 relatively easy opponents before each game. This is impressive balance.
Big November Games
I could’ve sworn during the early stages of the Jack Swarbrick era and into the early tenure of Brian Kelly when the conference realignment shifting was in full swing there was much talk about Notre Dame’s lack of big November games being a huge problem. Remember when this bled into the playoff discussions of how the Irish needed marquee opponents to off-set conference title week?
Now, the month of November is too hard!
Like the buzzword “slow developing run plays” the tough November games will be one of those off-season topics that will grab a lot of headlines but I’m not sure there’s a whole lot of substance there.
Here’s the thing, scheduling at Notre Dame is generally really difficult. As fans we tend to be fickle and cling to current trends. “This one thing isn’t working so let’s change to this other thing” often sounds good in theory but it can be difficult to implement in the ever-changing college football landscape.
Can anyone guarantee me Notre Dame doesn’t someday construct a perfectly soft November schedule and it’ll be the reason why a 11-1 Irish team gets left out of the playoff? You know it’ll happen!
I get it, moving the Syracuse game to New York City sandwiched in between FSU and USC feels unnecessary. It’s definitely asking for trouble. My question is how much trouble?
Can’t we just win more football games? Blaming not that brutal of scheduling feels a bit like a cop-out to me. We’re an independent and this is the life we’ve chosen. I just can’t find it in myself to go that hard on this topic. I realize deep down we kind of want to “schedule” our way to 10 or 11 wins for a couple seasons, get the ball rolling, and then get a little crazy. Maybe that’s smart program building, I’m not sure.
I just look around and we’re concerned about games against Syracuse and Northwestern because of scheduling. Or concern for what those games mean with surrounding travel to and fro other games. I actually wouldn’t care if Notre Dame started scheduling FCS teams but at some point you have to realize you’re just not going to have perfectly crafted schedules that do everything they can to hide the deficiencies of the football team.
Maybe this past November’s schedule put a strain on Notre Dame. But maybe it just showed the Irish weren’t really as good as many thought? It’d be nice if we were at a point where we were utterly confident of beating USC even if the team had to travel from Mars. I’d like to participate in that type of off-season talk.
Are these upcoming schedules a bit of a problem? Perhaps a little bit but they’re for down the list of concerns for me. Schedule big games, win big games. The stuff in between has always been a bit more rough for Notre Dame and the time for complaining there seems long, long gone.