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Adams: My dream ND football slate

| Friday, October 2, 2020

Notre Dame football met its darkest hour (so far) of its 2020 college football season when it was forced to postpone its Sept. 26 contest against Wake Forest. I say it was their darkest hour, but while is understandably worrisome to many, in reality, this should not come as a surprise.

It’s a crazy disease and there’s only so much you can control. I’m not trying to make excuses; I’m just telling it like it is.

Hopefully, they learn from this and work to avoid another outbreak down the line — and it seems they have since they identified a pregame team meal as the culprit — because now they’ve used up the built-in buffer to their schedule.

And speaking of their schedule, considering I’ve already speculated on the men’s basketball team’s schedule for 2020, I feel like musing on my dream football schedule for Notre Dame. So here it goes, but first:

Excluded: Navy, Stanford

Let’s get this out of the way. Say what you will about the military schools and the Navy series in particular. I’ve come around on it in the last few months since I vehemently defended its place on the schedule. But I must say I have sympathy for Clark Lea and pretty much any defensive coordinator who has to prep for the triple-option. Also, this game doesn’t work logistically with me trying to fit five ACC games in (more on that later).

That said, I remember covering a Notre Dame-Army lacrosse game as a freshman, and to see the way they treat rivalries (or matchups in general) against armed forces schools is really something special. So I’d like Notre Dame to go to an every-other-year model, and to get some variety by scheduling Army or Air Force in the Midshipmen’s stead.

As for Stanford, they care about academics like Notre Dame, but they don’t seem to be showing football the same appreciation. As such, the program is slipping, and there just doesn’t seem to be enough history between the schools (unless you include what’s happened with the Stanford band) to warrant this maintaining a yearly spot on the slate.

And with that…

Game 1: vs. Wake Forest

What can I say? I’ve got Wake Forest on the brain (queue James Taylor’s “Carolina in my Mind”). The Irish Catholics and the Demon Deacons; I don’t think that religious connotation is played up enough when these teams face. Let me see Notre Dame take on a middle-of-pack type of ACC team to kick off the season so they can at least get a little test before a tough test in week 3.

Game 2: vs. Tulsa

This is a revenge spot, very similar to this year’s matchup with South Florida. Notre Dame has never beaten Tulsa before, having faced off only once in 2010. They lost 28-27 thanks to a blocked extra point which the Golden Hurricane returned for a two-point conversion. I don’t think this would necessarily be as bad a beatdown as USF, but I’m confident that it would be sweet for the Irish.

Game 3: vs. Oregon

The matchups everyone wants to see: Oregon vs. Notre Dame and Nike vs. Under Armour. A battle to decide who the best team with at least some green color scheme is. Let’s see Notre Dame break out some Shamrock series jerseys against the school that’s most famous for alternate uniforms.

Oregon has pretty much run the Pac-12 the past couple of years (not saying much) while USC has been down. They’re a name-brand, quality program managing to recruit on a national level, and they have as many College Football Playoff appearances as (and one more win than) Notre Dame.

Bye Week

We don’t need the Irish on a letdown ahead of their next opponent. Give them some time to process the win or loss over a high-tier program and get ready for Act II of the season.

Game 4: at Florida State

Yes, Florida State is terrible, but there’s history between them and Notre Dame. And, as was also a large reason in playing Wake Forest the first game, I’m trying to play nice with the ACC and maintain their five contractually obligated games with Notre Dame, just because they provided the Irish a full football schedule amid COVID-19.

Maybe if the contest is in Tallahassee then it might be competitive, but in any case, it’s another name-brand. And at this point, aside from the five-game agreement, that’s all I can say. My word, what the heck has happened to Florida State football?!?

Game 5: at Boston College

Staying with ACC opponents, we’ll have a good ol’ fashioned Catholic showdown here between Notre Dame and Backup— I mean, Boston College. And what could go wrong playing them after Florida State? That’s never ended poorly for the Irish before…

Game 6: vs. Kentucky

I’m not even going to explain why I really want this game on the schedule. If you’ve read my stuff in The Observer for any length of time you could probably guess why I want to see Notre Dame play Kentucky. Suffice to say I’m biased.

Notre Dame has only failed to play four SEC teams in program history, and it seems they’ve started making an effort to check them off of their proverbial ‘bucket list’ in the last few years. They scheduled the likes of Vanderbilt in 2018 and Arkansas in 2020, the latter of which was canceled because of COVID-19.

Kentucky is one such team the Irish have never faced, and I would mightily enjoy to see the blue and white run out of the guest tunnel of Notre Dame Stadium (ideally without a checkerboard pattern on their uniforms) and to see the Gold helmets shining in the sun on a return trip to Kroger Field.

Game 7: vs. Georgia Tech

Maybe if we put an actual game between USC and Michigan (see next opponent) as a buffer (instead of, I don’t know, say, a bye week) the Irish won’t eke out a three-point win then get trounced by 31. Who knows? Just maybe.

Maybe if the Yellowjackets were still a triple-option team I would be hesitant to add them, but I’m trying to lighten the schedule load AND satisfy the contract with the ACC, and the ‘revamped’ Georgia Tech offense makes this attractive for fulfilling both of those criteria.

Game 8: at Michigan

I don’t think this needs explaining. Notre Dame and Michigan have a storied rivalry and the Irish owe them some payback for what happened in that monsoon last season.

Jim Harbaugh was so happy about the win that probably kept him off the hot seat that he didn’t care about his wet dockers. No one who wears dockers, wet or dry, should beat Notre Dame. And let the Irish show some fortitude by heading back up to Ann Arbor to try and find their pride where they lost it last season.

Game 9: at BYU

One of Notre Dame’s few ‘conference’ opponents, BYU at least offers some intrigue in terms of allowing the Irish to play their own version of the Holy War. I’m finding there’s a lot of religious conflict on this schedule, and I’m not sure why, but the prospect of the Irish and Cougars battling for Independent supremacy seems tantalizing, and the latter are owed a date out in Provo.

Bye Week

Six games against any set of Power 5 teams are going to test you, and as the Irish get into November they’re going to need a breather to recuperate, especially for the next opponent.

Game 10: vs. Miami (Fl.)

A November matchup between Notre Dame and Miami (or, as some may know them, the Catholics and the Convicts). Let’s try this again, shall we? The last time this scenario occurred the Playoff-hopeful Irish were run out of Hard Rock Stadium embarrassingly, and let’s not mention what happened off a bye week against Michigan last year.

Miami is looking a lot better this year thanks to the addition of D’Eriq King at QB. Granted, King will be gone before these two square off again, but you’d like to think this means the Hurricanes are on the up-and-up. Let me see this rivalry renewed and for Notre Dame to have yet another chance at some satisfaction on this revenge tour of a season.

Game 11: at USC

Like Michigan, I don’t think this requires much explanation. It’s Notre Dame’s biggest rival and it deserves a place on the schedule. That said, I’d like to see Notre Dame finish the year at home, but I also see the appeal of a late November trip to California, so I’ve moved this game up a spot.

Game 12: vs. UConn

Let’s end the season as we’ve spent most of it: looking for revenge. UConn, like Tulsa, has an all-time winning record of 1-0 over Notre Dame. You know it was a dark day in program history when the Irish lost to the Huskies in football.

UConn has since rejoined the Big East after a tryst with the AAC, but that’s not going to make them any better on the gridiron. End with a cupcake to give the seniors a chance to play and win their final regular-season game in Notre Dame Stadium in front of a majority Irish crowd.

Bonus: College Football Playoff vs. Alabama and Georgia

I don’t care about the order, but I want to play both of them and get some more revenge. Bama killed Notre Dame in 2012, so I think that game speaks for itself.

The Bulldogs are arguably even more frustrating having eked out two wins by a combined seven points in the last four seasons. Georgia also holds a 3-0 record over Notre Dame after beating them in the 1980 national championship, so let the Irish settle up by paying ’em back in kind, either in the semi-final or championship game.

There you have it. They say revenge isn’t healthy, but I think when it comes to football this what Notre Dame fans need to see.

It’d probably be the most satisfying season for Irish fans everywhere if the Irish could somehow run the gauntlet unscathed. That’s unlikely, I know, but we won’t know if they can do it until this schedule is set before them and they start chipping away at it.

So now it’s your move, Mr. Swarbrick. Don’t let me down.


Editor’s note: this story was updated on Oct. 2 at 6:28 p.m. An earlier version stated that Tulsa’s mascot was the Green Wave.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Hayden Adams

Hayden is the former sports editor of The Observer. When he's not working toward his four majors (physics and film, television & theatre) and three minors (journalism, ethics & democracy), you can probably find him hopelessly trying to save his beloved Zahm House from being wiped out. He plans to attend law school at a TBD location after graduation.

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