Earlier today, Notre Dame and Florida officially announced an agreement for a two-game home and home series between the two programs in 2031 and 2032. While the games aren’t for more than a decade, the announcement is further proof that Notre Dame doesn’t need to join a conference full time – much to the dismay of all of those in the media and throughout college football who hate the fact that Irish continue to thrive in Independence.
First off, props to Jack Swarbrick for getting Florida to agree to a road game at Notre Dame in mid-November with the Irish traveling to Gainesville in mid-September. It’s no small task getting a team from Florida to agree to a road game in what could be very different conditions than they are used to at the end of the season. Okay, now on to the real point of this post.
During Notre Dame’s one year fling with full-time membership in the ACC for the pandemic shortened 2020 season, much was made about Notre Dame joining a conference full-time in the future. Those who clamored for Notre Dame to join a conference or be left out of the BCS/Playoff mix said it was about time and that it should be permanent. Notre Dame was clear that it was a one-time thing. Announcements like today’s show why.
Notre Dame doesn’t need a conference to have the kind of schedule it needs to have a Playoff worthy resume. In coming years, Notre Dame has home and homes with Alabama, Ohio State, and Texas A&M in addition to regular matchups with Clemson and yearly bouts with USC and Stanford.
Notre Dame also had a home and home with Wisconsin that got cut in half because of the pandemic. In 2017 and 2019, the Irish had a home and home with Georgia on its resume.
In short, Notre Dame has no trouble at all scheduling a playoff-caliber schedule while maintaining independence. Today’s announcement of the addition of an SEC Power like Florida just further proves that for all the tough talk of coaches like Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi, other top programs will always be willing to schedule the Irish.
With Florida on the slate in 2031, the Irish have the Gators in addition to Clemson and presumably Stanford and USC. In 2022 and 2023, Notre Dame has Ohio State and Clemson on top of their usual foes. In 2029, Alabama and Clemson are on the schedule. In 2034, there’s Michigan and Clemson.
There are open spots in a lot of the years in between as well, so while not every season has a Florida in addition to a Clemson, there’s a clear trend in the kind of schedules Swarbrick and Brian Kelly are putting together.
Thanks to Ohio State’s inclusion in the College Football Playoffs this year after playing just seven contests, the College Football Playoff committee pretty much put to rest, forever, the “13th data point” argument that many wanted to use against Notre Dame in the past.
Notre Dame’s margin for error will remain small in the regular-season, but as long as programs like Florida, Alabama, and Ohio State continue to schedule home and home series with Notre Dame, their need for joining a conference full-time remains non-existent.
As for Florida, Notre Dame has only faced the Gators once before – the infamous 1992 Sugar Bowl deemed the Cheerios Bowl when a waiter told Lou Holtz that the difference between Notre Dame and Cheerios was the latter belonged in a bowl. Powered by Jerome Bettis’ 150 yards and three touchdowns, the Irish ran through the Gators en route to a 39-28 victory.
Games like this in the future will make it hard for the fans who complain about Notre Dame’s schedules. Yes, there have been a few down years of the Notre Dame schedule – 2021 being one of them other than the Wisconsin game – but the future Notre Dame schedules will not be short of marquee games.
Those fans will just have to find something else to complain about. Notre Dame ever joining a conference probably won’t be one of those things either, though. As long as Notre Dame is lining up SEC powers to play in South Bend in November, why would the Irish ever need to?