Notre Dame announced on February 9th that they would be playing the Florida Gators in the 2031 and 2032 seasons. Although they will not meet for over a decade, this shows the program’s commitment to play elite competition each fall. The Fighting Irish have made the playoffs both as an independent team and a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. If Brian Kelly and Notre Dame want to continue to make the playoffs, they must face top-tier programs which the SEC has to offer.
Recent SEC Competition
Georgia and Vanderbilt headline past regular-season opponents. Yes, the Commodores are likely the worst program in the SEC, and it was only a single game in South Bend, but they are an SEC team, nevertheless. On the other hand, the Georgia Bulldogs were among the best programs in the country when the Irish faced them a few years ago.
In 2017, Notre Dame lost to the Bulldogs in an instant classic 20 to 19. During the 2019 campaign, Ian Book led the Irish down to the wire in Athens, and their comeback came up short on a 4th and 8 on the Georgia 38 yard-line.
Notre Dame Football is familiar with SEC competition in the postseason. Brian Kelly has squared-off with the LSU Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide twice in the last decade. Fortunately, Notre Dame was victorious in the Music City Bowl and Citrus Bowl, facing LSU teams led by Les Miles in 2014 and Ed Orgeron in 2018.
However, the narrative with Alabama is undoubtedly different. Nick Saban has built one of the greatest dynasties in the history of sports. Conversely, Brian Kelly has Notre Dame in a position to make the playoffs each season, but there is a lot of work to be done to win a national championship.
SEC Opponents coming up
Irish set to take on Arkansas Razorbacks in 2025. With the pandemic last fall, Brian Kelly and Notre Dame had to change their schedule completely. The Razorbacks were set to visit South Bend, and it is uncertain if the matchup in South Bend will ever occur.
For now, Notre Dame is still set to visit Fayetteville in just a few years. Over the last decade, the Razorbacks have been near the bottom of the SEC, but things could change when the Irish hit the road in a couple of seasons.
Texas A&M series in 2024 and 2025. Notre Dame vs. Texas A&M will undoubtedly be one of the top matchups of the college football season. The last time Notre Dame visited College Station was 2001, and it is one of the rowdiest venues in all of sports. Since the Irish last visited Kyle Field, the stadium has even added 16,000 additional seats.
The storylines of Brian Kelly facing Jimbo Fisher along with former Notre Dame Defensive Coordinator Mike Elko will be captivating. Texas A&M was left out of the College Football Playoffs a season ago, and do not be surprised if they are an elite team when this game rolls around.
Future SEC Opponents
Alabama Crimson Tide in 2028 and 2029. I am excited that this matchup is taking place in the distant future, and only Nick Saban knows how much longer he will be in Tuscaloosa. Even if Saban is retired by 2028, expect another great coach to fill the vacancy.
What will be the state of Notre Dame Football when this time comes? Let us hope that the Irish can compete with the Crimson Tide both on the road and in South Bend. It is one thing for Alabama to beat the Irish in a bowl game, but the sight of Crimson Tide fans celebrating a blowout on Notre Dame campus would be a nightmare.
Florida Gators series in 2031 and 2032. Jack Swarbrick is already scheduling opponents into the 2030s. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is one of the most challenging places to play in all of college football. Even though there is no traditional rivalry with the Gators, I am thrilled for this gridiron showdown. The matchup with Florida has a lot of similarities to the series with the Georgia Bulldogs.
Scheduling for the playoffs
Irish proved they could handle a conference schedule in 2020. For years, skeptics said that Notre Dame must join a conference full-time to make the playoffs. Well, last year, they did and made it to the ACC Championship Game. Notre Dame and Clemson were clearly the two best teams in the ACC a year ago.
The Fighting Irish split the series with the Tigers and did not encounter much resistance with other ACC competition.
Jack Swarbrick continues to fill the schedules with marquee opponents. There is no guarantee that all these teams will be ranked when these matchups occur, but these are all elite programs, and they will often help with the playoff resumé. In 2022, Notre Dame will face Ohio State and Clemson, who were finished the season ranked #2 and #3 a year ago.
Whether or not the national media wants to admit it, Notre Dame Football always plays the best competition throughout the country. In the 1980s, the Irish played teams like Miami and Michigan. In the 1990s, they faced Florida State and Penn State. Now Brian Kelly will play the Ohio State Buckeyes and Clemson Tigers in 2022.
The College Football Playoff Committee favors challenging schedules. Yes, it is going to be difficult for Notre Dame to go undefeated in the upcoming years. But, if they can, they will be a lock for the playoffs. Even a one-loss Notre Dame Football team has an excellent opportunity for the playoffs like last fall.
The major difference between Notre Dame and Texas A&M in 2020 was the schedule and signature victory over Clemson.
The Irish will remain Independent. It does not appear Notre Dame Football will be joining the ACC or a conference as a full-time member anytime soon. The program has made the national title game and playoffs as an independent and once as a member of the ACC. For now, Notre Dame’s independence allows them to face top-tier competition like these SEC opponents and have a great shot at future playoff appearances.