When Notre Dame announced their official schedules for the 2017-2019 seasons on Thursday, they stated that the Shamrock Series could be returning after a one year hiatus this year. What it didn’t say was which games they would be. So with a few days left until spring practice begins, let’s analyze the 2018 and 2019 schedules to see what games make the most sense to potentially be moved for the Shamrock Series.
Before diving in, let’s remember that Jack Swarbrick has said that future Shamrock Series games would be more opponent driven, but that said, it’s hard to imagine Notre Dame really giving up a home game against a marquee opponent in the future.
Now, let’s start by looking at all of the home games in 2018. Here they are: Michigan (9/1), Ball State (9/8), Vanderbilt (9/15), Stanford (9/29), Pittsburgh (10/13), Florida State (11/10), Syracuse (11/17).
Right off the bat, I’m crossing off Michigan, Stanford and Florida State as possible Shamrock Series games. Michigan’s trip will be their first since 2014 and no way should Notre Dame open the season away from Notre Dame Stadium and essentially give away their home field advantage over Michigan. They will need every advantage they have in that game already.
Same goes for Florida State. The Seminoles haven’t visited South Bend since 2003 when they routed the Irish 37-0. Again, Notre Dame shouldn’t give away their home field advantage over Florida State even if a Notre Dame – Florida State off-site game in a marquee venue would be a huge TV draw.
As for Stanford, Notre Dame battles Stanford for a lot of the same recruits year in and year out. Do you think Notre Dame would potentially give Stanford a platform outside of Indiana to showcase their wares? Nope. Not happening.
OK, so in 2018, that leaves us with Ball State, Vanderbilt, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse. Ball State is a tune up game in early September. Boring. Pitt and Syracuse? Eh, maybe. Notre Dame’s already played Syracuse in Met-Life Stadium twice though so unless the venue is really exotic I don’t see it. And unless Dino Barbers really turns around Syracuse this year that wouldn’t be an upgrade in opponent.
Notre Dame has played Pitt more than every other rival not named USC, Navy, Michigan State, and Purdue. So playing Pitt in an off-site game loses a bit of appeal. That is unless, they were to play in a venue such as Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City (home of the Chiefs) or maybe historic Lambeau Field. Weather in mid-October would allow for both venues to still be more than accommodating. A historic rival and a potential Top 25 opponent would seem to check the boxes of opponent and venue.
That leaves us with Vanderbilt. I keep looking at the possibilities and if Notre Dame is going to do a Shamrock Series game in 2018, Vanderbilt is the perfect opponent. Logistically, the Vanderbilt game is sandwiched between two other home games making it advantageous from a travel standpoint as well.
Notre Dame could face Vandy at Nissan Stadium in Nashville and play in an NFL Stadium in the heart of SEC country. Yes, Nissan Stadium is in Vanderbilt’s backyard but that didn’t stop Notre Dame from playing Boston College in Fenway Park in 2015.
Another possible venue for a Notre Dame – Vanderbilt off-site game could be the about to open Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta – future home of the Atlanta Falcons. Again, NFL venue and fertile recruiting ground. Now, TV rights could gum up the works with such games as they did a Notre Dame – Baylor game in Cowboys Stadium for the first Shamrock Series game. (Had to really dig in the UHND archives for that one).
Even if Notre Dame and Vanderbilt would have to schedule the game further from Vanderbilt’s home base for TV rights, as an opponent, they just seem to make the most sense for a Shamrock Series game in 2018 if there is indeed one. Arrowhead or Lambeau Field would work here as well as late September weather in Green Bay would be about perfect for a game.
Jack Swarbrick has said the Shamrock Series would be more opponent driven in the future, but it’s hard to imagine Notre Dame giving up the homefield advantage in Notre Dame Stadium against Florida State, Stanford, or Michigan. The Irish vs. a SEC team in an NFL Stadium, however, could be intriguing.
Not Many Great Options in 2019
Ok, let’s move on to 2019. In two years Notre Dame will host New Mexico (9/14), Virginia (9/28), Bowling Green (10/5), USC (10/12), Virginia Tech (11/2), Navy (11/16), and Boston College (11/23).
Off the bat, scratch USC off the list for the same reasons as Michigan and Florida State listed above. It’s also the only marquee home of the season. Notre Dame has road games at Stanford, Georgia, and Michigan – that’ll be fun.
Notre Dame has played Boston College in a Shamrock Series game before and while they have repeated a Shamrock Series foe before (Army in 2016), they seem less likely again as the appealing venue in Boston was already used. One possibility here, however, could be an exotic venue – say Notre Dame vs. Boston College in Ireland. Now that is something that would be interesting.
Baring another trip to Ireland, that leaves us with New Mexico, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Bowling Green. Like Ball State in 2018, Bowling Green doesn’t make any sense as a Shamrock Series foe. Assuming Bob Davie is still coaching New Mexico in 2019, there is no way that game gets moved and ruins the storyline of Davie returning to Notre Dame. That will be that game’s saving grace rating wise.
That leaves us with Virginia and Virginia Tech. Either ACC opponent could make for an interesting off-site game and TV rights shouldn’t be an issue as Notre Dame already played Boston College in Fenway Park during the life of the ACC agreement. Venue would really have to be the seller though as Virginia would be a stretch for an upgrade in opponent.
Virginia Tech could be a good fit here though and in the goal of making the game more opponent driven they are a good fit. The Hokies should be a pretty strong opponent in 2019 if Justin Fuente continues what he started in 2016. Notre Dame just hosted Virginia Tech last season so another home game in 2019 is a quick turnaround.
Notre Dame – Virginia Tech would be an interesting Shamrock Series game. Venue could be a question though. A game in FedEx Field outside of DC wouldn’t be exciting given Notre Dame has played a Shamrock Series game there already. Lambeau Field would be a great venue here too potentially but the weather could be a factor here as the tundra might already be a bit frozen in November.
Could Notre Dame Scrap the Shamrock Series?
Notre Dame was non-committal in their statements about the Shamrock Series in yesterday’s statement. If the goal is genuinely to make the games more about the opponent than the venue it really makes no sense to move a home game against a Michigan or Florida State away from Notre Dame Stadium – especially after all of the money invested in upgrading it this off-season. If Swarbrick was only referring to avoiding have really low level opponents such as Army (2016) or Purdue (2014) then it matchups against either Vanderbilt in 2018 or Virginia Tech in 2019 make some sense.
If the options, however, are to move a Michigan or a Florida State game away from Notre Dame Stadium or not having a Shamrock Series game all; I’ll quote the classic movie Tombstone. Well, bye.