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Coolican: Looking at Notre Dame’s history against the MAC

| Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Notre Dame is preparing to welcome Bowling Green to South Bend on Saturday for the first ever matchup between these two schools. Last season, the Falcons finished with a disappointing 3-9 (2-6 MAC) record, and they looked to improve the team by hiring a new head coach, Scot Loeffler.

Loeffler was previously the offensive coordinator at Temple, Auburn, Virginia Tech and Boston College. During his time calling plays for Boston College, he played Notre Dame once in 2017. His offense scored 20 points against the Irish in a 49-20 Notre Dame victory, which was tied for the second most points Notre Dame allowed that year.

Incidentally, Loeffler was also the quarterbacks coach at Michigan while Tom Brady played for the Wolverines. During his two seasons starting for Michigan, Brady played Notre Dame both years, with Notre Dame upsetting No. 5 Michigan 36-20 in 1998, in Brady’s first career start, but he bounced back the following year, beating the Irish 26-22. Loeffler is rumored to be one of Brady’s closest friends.

The Irish have rarely played teams from the Mid-American Conference (MAC), but they’ve been consistently successful against them, posting a 4-0 record with an average margin of victory of 25 points per game. However, Irish fans will remember last year’s close call versus fellow MAC foe Ball State, where Notre Dame narrowly escaped with a 24-16 victory. The game was closer than the score would indicate, with Ball State actually winning the time of possession and nearly coming all the way back in the fourth quarter.

Recently, Notre Dame announced an annual game with a MAC school, beginning in 2017. Next year, Western Michigan will come to South Bend, and the following year, it will be Toledo. Each school is expected to be paid over a million dollars to play Notre Dame.

It is a series that makes a lot of sense for both sides, as the MAC schools do not have to travel very far, and enjoy the exposure of playing against a top team in a nationally televised game, and Notre Dame gets an easier matchup sprinkled in with all the tough Power Five conference opponents it plays every year. Notre Dame is one of three FBS schools — along with USC and UCLA — that have never played an FCS team. Being unaffiliated contributes to that, as Notre Dame doesn’t have a conference championship game so they are expected to play a tougher regular season schedule. However, the SEC has an entire “FCS week”, where many of the teams in SEC schedule games against FCS opponents, typically late in the season. This year, it is the second to last week of the season. This leads to many of those schools being well-rested heading into their bowl games because their starters typically don’t play the entire game, so it makes sense for Notre Dame to schedule easier games mid-season when other playoff contenders are playing conference games.

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