We’ve all heard it before. “NoTrE dAmE dOeSnT pLaY aNy OnE!” Fans from other programs around the country have convinced themselves for years that because Notre Dame is independent, there’s simply no way the Irish could play a tough schedule despite every schedule metric in the book continually rating the Irish schedule among the toughest every damn year. Even some lazy analysts in the college football media have piled on. Josh Pate from 247Sports, however, recently destroyed the notion that Notre Dame plays a week schedule.
Pate’s take on Notre Dame’s schedule and where the Irish fit into the current college football landscape, for that matter, is dead-on correct. Notre Dame’s schedule is routinely ranked as one of the toughest in the country year in and year out. This year alone, the Irish play at Ohio State and USC, host Clemson, and face BYU at a neutral site in Vegas. Add in a road game at Chapel Hill versus North Carolina and home games against Stanford and Boston College, and it’s hard to understand how anyone could say it’s an easy slate of games.
The argument most make when trying to say Notre Dame is either overrated or plays an easy schedule is Notre Dame’s performance in the playoffs, where the Irish haven’t kept games close. Michigan just got boat raced in the Playoffs, too, though. Oklahoma has been blown out in the Playoffs more times than the Irish, but no one makes the same argument against the Sooners.
Notre Dame is right where Pate placed them in his analysis – one tier below the Ohio States, Alabamas, and Georgias of the college football world. Until Notre Dame knocks one of them off when it counts, that is likely where they will stay as well, even if Marcus Freeman keeps the streak of 10+ wins alive this year. But, unfortunately, that’s just where the Irish currently are. There are definitely signs that Notre Dame is headed toward being in the same class as those programs in the near future. However, until then, Notre Dame is just below them while still being ahead of virtually everyone else right now in that next tier of programs.
Despite all evidence pointing to Notre Dame playing a competitive, sometimes downright hard, schedule every year, no amount of data is likely to get some people to stop making the baseless claim. As Pate pointed out, those same people tend never to have any actual data or facts the back up their argument other than Notre Dame’s record in the playoffs. But everyone other than Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Georgia have been blown out in the playoffs – and even Clemson, ‘Bama, and Ohio State have taken beatings of 20 or more points in the playoffs.
With the headwinds pushing Notre Dame towards a conference drastically subsiding in the last week or so, we are probably going to have to continue to hear the same old tired argument over and over again until Notre Dame wins a playoff game or wins an NY6 bowl against a quality team in convincing fashion