Wednesday, June 25, 2014
UGA series exciting, but too much for Irish?
By Matt Fortuna
So Notre Dame has finally scheduled an SEC opponent for its future slate, checking a box, as athletic director Jack Swarbrick said, that had been missing among its pool of "top-drawer opponents."
That's a pool that had already included heavyweights Michigan, Stanford, USC, Michigan State and Stanford. A pool that had already included five ACC opponents a year. One that had already included teams such as Arizona State and Northwestern for this fall, enough frequent-flyer miles on-deck to make George Clooney's character from "Up in the Air" jealous.
A home-and-home with Georgia gets the Irish more exposure in the Peach State, especially with a home game against Georgia Tech in 2015, and a return trip to Atlanta likely coming sometime between 2017-2019. That last year, of course, is when the Irish will visit the Bulldogs, a team that came oh-so-close to squaring off with Notre Dame on the biggest stage of all, two seasons ago.
We know all about the Stephon Tuitts and the TJ Joneses, two Georgia-born Irish stars picked up in last month's NFL draft. Georgia is a talent-rich state, and a stronger pipeline there can do the Irish wonders, especially with the addition of the in-roads assistant Kerry Cooks and Co. have made in recent years through Texas.
That pipeline to the Lone Star State should only enhance with the upcoming series between Notre Dame and Texas, an intersectional matchup that Swarbrick told ESPN's Brett McMurphy on Wednesday could be reduced from four to two games.
That would eliminate the 2019 trip to Austin for Notre Dame, a welcome reprieve for a team that otherwise would have been visiting both Georgia and Texas within a four-week span to open that season. Nonetheless, the road will hardly be a cakewalk for the Irish, as you can all but pencil-in an end-of-November date at Stanford for that year, in addition to another two or three trips to ACC venues.
Who knows what the state of all those programs, let alone the state of this sport, will be like five years from now. Notre Dame's 2012 schedule -- with trips to Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC -- had looked like murderer's row, and all the Irish did that season was go 12-0 and reach the BCS title game. But as it stands, this fall's schedule may end up being the easiest among future Irish slates, what with no true road games among the first half of the season, just three overall, and four ACC opponents instead of five. This is still a 2014 slate, mind you, that includes trips to defending national champion Florida State, to ASU and to USC.
Now comes an SEC power, a Georgia team that, under Mark Richt's tenure, during the height of the SEC's supremacy, has played in five league title games, and made three BCS bowls. It gives Notre Dame that coveted SEC notch under its belt, finally, and it gives fans of both schools plenty to get excited about, especially with the name programs keeping these games on campus.
It further erases the ridiculous notion that Notre Dame doesn't play anyone, and it further expands one of college football's most powerful brand in a key territory.
But with expectations at Notre Dame as high as they've been in two decades, is it practical?