Notre Dame has not done itself favors with its schedules in recent years. Just last year, Notre Dame sacrificed a home game for a cash grab at Yankee Stadium and made its team travel all over the US in November. That is not the case this season – especially this weekend when some strategic scheduling (maybe it was luck) has Notre Dame set up perfectly for their trip to Ann Arbor, where they are hoping to reverse some years of bad luck in the Big House.
This year’s schedule has a well-placed bye week in between Notre Dame’s last game – two weeks ago against USC – and this weekend’s trip north to Ann Arbor. That alone would give Notre Dame a bit of an advantage since the Wolverines are coming off a hard-fought loss on the road against a top-10 conference foe in Penn State.
On top of having an extra week to prepare – and get healthy – Notre Dame students are on break this week after midterms wrapped up last week. Having exams last week has two built-in benefits for Notre Dame this weekend.
- Notre Dame players didn’t have to juggle studying for exams and preparing for a game this year. You know, since Notre Dame’s players actually have to take exams.
- Because students are on break this week, NCAA rules state that teams are not limited to the standard 20 hours of weekly preparation
Anyone who has followed Notre Dame football over the years knows that games during midterms week are a crapshoot. Sometimes the Irish handle it fine while other times, it looks like the team is sleepwalking that week. It’s the nature of the beast at an institution like Notre Dame, where there is an emphasis is placed on academics. Not having to juggle that this year is huge for the team.
The secondary benefit of exams aligning well with the bye week is that Notre Dame is not limited to those 20 hours. That doesn’t mean Brian Kelly and his staff are going to treat this week like they are running an NFL franchise, but it does give them some more flexibility. It also allows the players to be entirely focused on Michigan all week long.
How much this will help Notre Dame this week won’t be known until Saturday night, but considering how Notre Dame has scheduled itself into messes at times in the past, it’s a welcomed change seeing the schedule align so strategically for Notre Dame heading into what figures to be the game that will define the 2019 season for Notre Dame.
Ironically, a lot has been made of all of Notre Dame’s opponents who have bye weeks this year given the double-bye week for all teams this year, but not much has been said about Notre Dame not only having a bye week before such a pivotal game but also essentially having the week to completely focus on football without any classes.
It will be impossible to make this a yearly occurrence for the Notre Dame schedule, but the more that Jack Swarbrick can do to make sure that Notre Dame bye weeks align so nicely with exams, the better. Now the Irish just need to go out and take advantage of the extra preparation they’ve been afforded this weekend.