Notre Dame 2020 Football Schedule: Initial Impressions
Notre Dame getting a 2020 schedule has been quite the ordeal, but it has finally arrived. After months of questions and uncertainty, Notre Dame now knows what its first - and likely only - season in the ACC will look like.
The Fighting Irish will play 10 league games and will host Western Michigan as the only non-conference game of the season. Let’s take a dive into the schedule and give some initial impressions, but let’s begin by looking at the schedule.
Sept. 12 - vs. Duke
Sept. 19 - vs. Western Michigan
Sept. 26 - at Wake Forest
Oct. 3 - Bye Week
Oct. 10 - vs. Florida State
Oct. 17 - vs. Louisville
Oct. 24 - at Pittsburgh
Oct. 31 - at Georgia Tech
Nov. 7 - vs. Clemson
Nov. 14 - at Boston College
Nov. 21 - Bye Week
Nov. 27 - at North Carolina (Friday)
Dec. 5 - Syracuse
The first reaction about this schedule is the lack of USC, Navy and Stanford. It feels strange to look at a schedule that doesn’t contain any of those teams. But if Notre Dame ultimately joins a conference having all three opponents on the schedule each and every season will be almost impossible. It might be difficult to have both on the schedule, but we’ll discuss that at a later date.
Here are other thoughts and observations from the schedule:
** The ACC once again bent over backwards to make life better for Notre Dame. Not only did the league bring the Irish in for the season, which will prove financially beneficial for Notre Dame, the schedule sets up quite nicely.
** Part of that is the manageable start to the season. Notre Dame begins the season against Duke, a team coming off a 5-7 season, and a team the Irish throttled 38-7 last November. That is followed up by a home contest against Western Michigan (the non-conference game) and then a road trip to Wake Forest. That will certainly not be an easy game, but Notre Dame has a far better roster than the Deacons, and Notre Dame is 5-0 against them under Kelly. Those wins were by 29, 11, 21, 38 and 7 points.
** Notre Dame’s first three opponents combined to go 20-18 last season. Notre Dame’s final three opponents went 18-20. Makes the start and finish more manageable, at least on paper.
** Notre Dame gets a bye week before a tough three game stretch of the season, which includes home games against Florida State and Louisville, and a road contest at Pittsburgh. A case could be made that its the toughest three-game stretch of the season. The stretch of Clemson, Boston College and North Carolina might get a lot of mention because of the Tigers and the hype surrounding the Tar Heels, but FSU, Louisville and Pittsburgh are not only talented, they matchup well with Notre Dame.
** The other bye week is also nicely set up, coming between the Boston College and North Carolina games. The Tar Heel game will be on a Friday, and the Friday after Thanksgiving, so that extra time late in the season should help.
** Speaking of that North Carolina game, a case could be made that North Carolina is the second toughest game of Notre Dame’s season, especially when you consider it’s a road game. That is usually the weekend where Notre Dame travels to the West Coast to finish the season. The justification for years is it gives Notre Dame’s staff a recruiting boost. Notre Dame can’t get on the road after the North Carolina game because there is still one home game remaining the next week. But Notre Dame wants to recruit the Mid-Atlantic region, and playing (and possibly beating) North Carolina on the road, its second contest in the Tar Heel state, could be a boost.
** Notre Dame ends the season against Syracuse, marking the first time since 1993 the Irish will end the season at home. Of all the teams in the ACC, it made the most sense to have the Orange travel to South Bend in the winter. Syracuse plays in a dome stadium, but it gets very, very cold in northern New York and their players will be used to being in the cold.
** I was surprised the ACC did not move Clemson up earlier in the schedule. Obviously the league wants Notre Dame and Clemson in the ACC title game, and the thought was they would want to put more distance between those two games. Keeping that contest in November is a positive for Notre Dame, and keeping it there was a boost for the Irish at the expense of the league’s dominant team.
** Quarterback Phil Jurkovec was granted immediately eligibility at Boston College. The Notre Dame transfer needs to find his groove and still win the job, but if he finds his prep form he’ll give that offense a huge boost. Notre Dame travels to Massachusetts to play the Eagles the week after they host Clemson. If Jurkovec is starting and playing well it will make that the biggest ND/BC game since 1993, at least from a storyline standpoint.
** One of the interesting aspects of this season is how will Notre Dame handle an upset or a loss. In the past, one loss made it very difficult for the Irish to have title aspirations. Now, one loss, even two losses, likely leaves Notre Dame in position to still play for a title, the ACC title. How will that impact how the team views the season, how it reacts to wins, how it reacts to losses, etc. It should make for a very entertaining season, and it will give Irish fans a very new experience.
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