I’ve been on record here as stating that what Notre Dame has intentionally done with their end of the season schedule this fall makes no sense whatsoever and that they could have scheduled themselves out of a playoff. Well, that end of year slate of games just got a tick more difficult with the announcement on Wednesday by CBS that the October 27th Notre Dame – Navy game in San Diego will be an 8:00 PM ET kickoff.
Just what Notre Dame needed for the 2018 schedule – another night game. Not only another night game, but another road night game. Notre Dame already has a record three home night games this season – Michigan, Stanford, and Florida State. This makes the fourth and it would be surprising if Notre Dame’s first ever trip to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech isn’t in prime time. The USC game could easily become #5 if the Irish head to Southern California highly ranked to close the season as well.
Now, before anyone gets all high and mighty about how Navy should never be a tough game and all that, just stop. We all know Navy shouldn’t be a tough game and the reason this makes the end of the season a bit harder isn’t the opponent, it’s the addition of a night game being played in California for a Navy “home” game 3,000+ miles from the Naval Academy. The Irish will reportedly fly home on Sunday morning to mitigate some jet lag, but even that will throw off their schedules.
With the Navy game now scheduled for prime-time, Notre Dame will have to play a night game on the road in California, travel home for a quick road trip to Chicago the following weekend to take on a pretty good Northwestern squad, host Florida State the weekend after, then travel to New York to play Syracuse in Yankee Stadium in what could have been a Notre Dame home game, before ending the year back in California to take on Southern Cal Thanksgiving weekend.
Anyone who travels for business will tell you that much travel takes its toll on an individual when you are just traveling let alone playing three plus hour of grueling football. And if you don’t travel that much, don’t scoff at that notion. It’s 100% true.
In a video game scenario this run of games shouldn’t be as hard as it will be for Notre Dame. In real life though, a stretch of games that shouldn’t be that tough has been unnecessarily been made more difficult than it should be. Consider what the final five games of the season could have been had games not been moved to different venues to time slots for the sake of marketing.
- October 27: Notre Dame travels to Baltimore to play Navy in noon kick-off and is home in South Bend Saturday night
- November 3: Notre Dame makes a short trip to Evanston to play Northwestern in another noon game and gets on a bus home to South Bend the same day
- November 11: Notre Dame hosts Florida State at a standard 3:30 kick-off
- November 18: Notre Dame stays home again for a standard 3:30 kick-off against Syracuse
- November 25: Notre Dame travels to California like it does every last week of November and plays USC
Doesn’t that look a whole heck of a lot nicer and easier on the student athletes who are actually playing the games? In that scenario, Notre Dame leaves the eastern and central time zones just once, gets on a plane just twice, and plays two of its final three games in its home stadium. Instead the Irish will play one game in Notre Dame Stadium after October 13 this season. It just wasn’t smart scheduling from the get go. The extra night game only compounds the issue.
Again, ending the season with Navy, Northwestern, Florida State, Syracuse, and USC is challenging (assuming Florida State returns to prominence) but manageable on the surface. The problem with what has happened to the end of the schedule is that it’s been artificially made difficult with very little reward for Notre Dame. Will Notre Dame get any added benefit to playing Navy in San Diego at night or Syracuse in Yankee Stadium in the CFP Rankings? No. Those are games that Notre Dame is expected to win big and if they don’t no one is going to care about anything else.
So in the end, what is Notre Dame gaining for all of this? Not much.