Torn on These Notre Dame Schedules

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:

2018 Schedule

Ball State
at Wake Forest
at Virginia Tech

[Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego] at Northwestern
Florida State
Syracuse [Yankee Stadium, Bronx] at USC

2019 Schedule

at Louisville
New Mexico
at Georgia
Bowling Green
at Michigan
Virginia Tech
at Duke
Boston College
at Stanford

2020 Schedule

at Navy [MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford] Arkansas
Western Michigan
at Wake Forest
Wisconsin [Lambeau Field, Green Bay] Stanford
at Pittsburgh
at Georgia Tech
at USC

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.

Just Win!

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.

By |2018-05-09T22:25:40+00:00December 11th, 2017|Football|35 Comments

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College football is far too volatile to get worked up over future scheduling. We have no idea how good we or anyone else on our schedule will be next year or any year after that.

I’m more concerned with preserving rivalries and finding new blood. These schedules accomplish that.


The travel doesn’t bother me. It really isn’t an adequate reason for poor play or lack of energy/focus. What does bother me is scheduling MAC teams. A game against a FCS team would make me blow my top lol. i’d be totally fine with Navy being the only non-Power 5 team we ever play.


“…currently worst MAC team in the country.”

They are pretty good at basketball though, no?

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

It is interesting to see the decisions made, ND is “independent” but playing 5 ACC games a year so that independence is really only pseudo at best. Take 2020, they’re locked in for 6 ACC games to makeup for 4 the year prior, who does ND schedule for their out of conference choices? (Assuming we consider the 2 Cali teams + Navy more or less “conference” games, since they are locked in yearly)

Wisconsin (neutral), Arkansas, Western Michigan…..One “easy” game against a non P5, a series with a Big10 power in NFL stadiums and a series with a mid-level SEC team. Pretty strong schedule.

You know who Alabama’s scheduled so far OOC in 2020? Kent State and Georgia State.
Ohio State has Bowling Green and @Oregon
Clemson has Akron and South Carolina
…Each of those have 1 more to add, and we’ll see but I doubt they’re playing an impressive progam

Granted, some of that is to balance out tough conference games but the elite programs when they get their choosing mostly eat cupcakes, Notre Dame often for optics, money, whatever is going to NFL or baseball stadiums to play P5 schools and increase prestige/money/attention/whatever.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s noble, good and fun, just makes it a lot more difficult to get to 11-1, 12-0, and not being in a conference means that’s what it takes to make the playoffs.


Well most years we won’t have to worry too much that an 11-1 ND team gets left out of the playoffs. By my count there are 5 “marquee” type games each year.


I imagine that we won’t worry too much about the playoff resume because we have 4-5 losses by the end of November


Couldn’t agree more with your opinion of ending the season in Cali, especially because it usually ends with a loss. Why can’t we ever end the season at home?

Right or wrong, making the playoffs is easier with an early season loss rather than a late season loss.


Crossroads should have provided a welcome excuse to end the Shamrock Series. Instead, they have the single dumbest version of it yet coming up (though I’ll entertain the argument that playing Washington State in Texas was pretty dumb as well).

RDU Irish
RDU Irish

Seems most here are on board with this scheduling so I’ll bite.

This is beyond moronic and shows zero serious intent to make the playoffs. If you want to be the best you have to beat the best – IN JANUARY. Which means you have to make the playoffs first. When an 11-1 ND is left at the altar – I will entertain the idea that we need this SoS to make the playoff.

Next year we go from San Diego to Chicago to ND to NYC to LA in five weeks – playing legitimate teams all along the way. Meanwhile Alabama will have a bye after @ TN, @ LSU, home for MSU, home for CITIDEL and home for Auburn. A bye and three home games including a scrimmage to finish the seasons last five weeks. And they will be lauded for the gauntlet of LSU, MSU and Auburn they have to run at the end of the season. Compare those iteneraries – consider our kids are actually STUDENT-athletes and tell me they are being set up to succeed anywhere close to other schools serious about contending for a title. We could have played Syracuse and Navy anywhere and we choose to locations as far as possible away from us within the continental US?

Oh and Bama also has juggernauts Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette on the home slate next year – three of seven home games against much worse than MAC level competition you are complaining about. If we want to get serious about competing – three games a year need to be Western Michigan/Rice/Ball State level competition. And that is still light years ahead of the low end of most program schedules that dip heavily into FCS territory. Citidel? Two weeks before the end of the season? Seriously just take the bye week – your season ticket holders would probably thank you.


There’s a 12-1 Wisconsin and a 13-0 UCF with weak-ass SoS’s that would like a word…

RDU Irish
RDU Irish

Wisconsin was in if they win the B1G. They controlled their destiny at the end of the season – thanks to their cream puff schedule which is exactly my point. Alabama got in thanks to their reputation which has been cultivated by cream puff scheduling only demanding they show up for a handful of games per year.

UCF played
GT (cancelled)
@ Maryland
@ Cincinnati
@ Navy
Austin Peay
South Florida
CCG Memphis

Their best opponents were our worst.

We could swap out Indiana for Michigan and Western Michigan for Stanford and still have plenty of SoS to compete for a playoff spot at 11-1, with exponentially higher probability of GETTING TO 11-1 which is the only point at which the argument matters, right?


“cream puff scheduling only demanding they show up for a handful of games per year”

Those “handful of games per year” generally include an SEC Championship game and multiple high-profile games against good teams and 50% of the time on the road. Oh, and also, Alabama tends to win those games. Pretty sure Alabama gets the benefit of the doubt IRT weak teams because the typically rise to the occasion when they play tough teams. (7-4 in bowl games since 2008, including 4 National Championships and 2 other CFP Semifinal victories.)

The same cannot be said for ND.

RDU Irish
RDU Irish

Bama mold
– Start the season with a respectable OOC opponent – this year FSU was an impressive matchup, turned out not so much but at least they tried.
– Follow that with a few cupcakes – Fresno State and Colorado State this year
– Ease into the SEC schedule – @ Vandy considered one of your “high profile games”
Home Ole Miss
Home Arkansas
Home Tennessee
BYE before your division rival
Home LSU (who lost to TROY mind you – so spare me the juggernaut match up)
MERCER to prep an extra week for your in-state rival
@ Auburn

Scrimmage before Auburn and presumed CCG – also look at the total miles traveled.

I think they only changed their watches for daylight savings time and the season opener in Atlanta. Not sure if Vandy is EST or CST.


Not sure why miles traveled is an indicator of a quality schedule. Shouldn’t Hawaii be considered better then?

Also, what do you think ND’s record would be with that schedule?


Well…Arkansas St was 7-4 this year and finished the regular season at 41st in F/+ good for second highest Sun Belt team. That also put them just a few spots below Ohio who was the second highest MAC team. LA-La was worse than anyone on our schedule this year and the Citadel, of course, is FCS.

RDU Irish
RDU Irish

Also look at the the odds of winning statistically – our worst opponents next year of Ball State, Vandy and… I don’t even know b/c the rest aren’t that reliably horrible – even Vandy as a cupcake is questionable… let’s say Pitt. Say the odds of victory are 95%, 90% and 85%. Odds of winning all three = 69%, one out of three years you lose one of those games. Swap out Citadel, Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette and odds look more like 99%, 99% and 98% for a 3-0 win probability of 96% meaning you lose one every 25 years. Why handicap 1/4th of your schedule like that?

Not to mention the cumulative effects of playing better teams week in and week out.


I don’t think enough can be said about the cumulative effects of playing teams week in and week out who have legitimate shots to beat you.