Notre Dame has been teetering on the edge of being elite for the last few seasons. Three straight 10+ win seasons and a playoff berth show how close Notre Dame is to breaking through. With that said, they still have a long way to go. While there is no easy fix to Notre Dame winning a title, the answer could be laying in the Big 12.
Putting The Big 12 On The Schedule
Notre Dame has always played a national schedule and traveled to both coasts. However, the Big 12 has largely been forgotten over the last two decades.
Since 2000, Notre Dame has played just six regular season games against teams currently in the Big 12. The Irish have played Oklahoma twice (2012, 2013), Texas twice (2015, 2016) and West Virginia twice (2000, 2001).
While the Big 12 doesn't have the name recognition or star power like the SEC, it does have a massive plus. Recruiting access to Texas.
The Lone Star State puts out high school talent at an incredible clip. It has been a top-three state for producing Top 150 recruits for more than a decade. In the 2020 class, Texas produced 16% of the blue-chip recruits (Top 150) and the top five recruiting classes were built off Texas talent.
Looking at the Texas impact on Notre Dame could be one tell for their struggles to take the final step as a program. From the 2016 class through the 2020 class, Notre Dame has signed a total of four recruits in five classes from Texas. Two of those commits came from the 2017 class. The same class that watched Notre Dame play at Texas in 2016.
Scheduling games to tap into a recruiting market isn't new, Notre Dame just did it successfully in the last few years. Texas could become the new Georgia.
The Georgia Effect
Notre Dame playing Georgia helped change the way they recruit. Despite the results, the narrow losses paid off with high-end players.
From 2015 through the 2017 classes, Notre Dame didn't have a single Georgia recruit. However, Notre Dame landed three Georgia commits in the 2018 class. Then, they landed three more in the 2019 class. Kyle Hamilton, Tommy Tremble, C'Bo Flemister and KJ Wallace are all impact players with Georgia ties.
Even looking ahead, the 2021 class currently features four-star tight end Cane Berrong. Scheduling a rotating schedule with the Big 12 would open up Texas. Even playing the Shamrock Series against a Big 12 team at the Cowboys Stadium could be a major draw.
Notre Dame has played nine Shamrock Series games. Almost half have been in NYC, Boston, or Indianapolis. While some talent has come out of those areas, it isn't nearly as talent-rich as the South. I also understand the draw of playing at Yankee Stadium, but it just makes more sense to find a big stadium in a hotbed.
A big game at Jerry World against Oklahoma would put Notre Dame front and center to some of the best recruits in the country. The Sooners have had no less than eight Texas recruits in their class over the last three years. Couple that with four Texas schools in the Big 12 and you can tap into the Texas pipeline.
Thoughts From The Big 12 Side
I spoke with Bill Pollock, the host of Big 12 This Week, and his thoughts on how a Notre Dame-Big 12 would impact the conference.
Q: What would be some of the positives and negatives from the Big 12 side if they were to compete yearly?
Bill Pollock: "I think the positive would be, Notre Dame is such a brand name. It is such a household name in my opinion. Even when they have down years, that name still carries a lot of weight. One of the things I think the Big 12 is trying to do, they are trying to schedule some tougher non-conference opponents.
"The thought is after Oklahoma, everything else kind of drops off. Baylor was an exception this year, but I think if you could have a Notre Dame on the schedule it could bring your conference into light on a national level. When the playoff committee starts looking back at what teams have done, that's just a good game to have on your schedule."
Q: Do you think Notre Dame stealing a few blue chips would affect teams like Oklahoma and Texas?
BP: "When Gary Pinkel first arrived at Missouri, one of the big things he tried to do was make Texas a big recruiting because they were in the Big 12 at the time. The way it worked out for them, they didn't get the four and five-star recruits. They went and got the guys that were kind of picked over or left behind from Oklahoma and Texas. Still really good football players. What they were able to do (Missouri) in some of their years as they were able to coach those guys up
"The question is a three-star at Texas may be better than a four-star recruit in another state. Now Notre Dame has more history, more recognition, they may be able to steal some of those. But that might be an opportunity that is untapped for Notre Dame with their national exposure. They might be able to go into Texas and get some of those kids that are on the three or four-star side of things that are still really good football players. But they get overlooked and the coaching staff can coach them up. Again, you are not necessarily playing Texas and Oklahoma all the time. If you improve your roster with more quality Texas players, it can affect your roster long term."
Q: Do you think the Big 12 could see a recruiting bump from playing Notre Dame?
BP: "I don't think it would hurt. Especially if you could talk to a potential recruit and tell them "hey, in your four years here, you're going to play Notre Dame a couple of times and one time you're going to be on NBC". That can help.
"Then as you get the upper echelon, you talk about Oklahoma and Texas. But even getting a Baylor last year who is playing for the Big 12 title and the chance to win. A game like that or at least having the national exposure during the season, at least when it comes to committee time, maybe they remember Baylor playing Notre Dame. Or they remember TCU playing Notre Dame early in the year and all of a sudden there they are in the playoff discussion. I think it could help from a recruiting standpoint and come playoff committee time. Just having that national exposure and having more eyes see your program."
Finding An Advantage
Notre Dame has failed to close the gap in recruiting. While the 2020 class featured some real talent, they didn't do enough to bring in players at a Georgia or Clemson level. Tapping into Texas is just another resource that would help push Notre Dame into the right direction.
A Big 12 scheduling move would also help solidify any complaints about Notre Dame's schedule. While not every year would feature a blue blood like Texas or Oklahoma, the Big 12 has enough recognizable names. Oklahoma State, TCU, Baylor and Iowa State have all gained national exposure at some point over the last few years. A game against TCU would also likely bring more recruiting exposure versus playing Vanderbilt.
You can listen to Bill Pollock as the host of Big 12 This Week. Airs on radio stations in the Big 12 footprint. Channel 375 on Sirius XM and the TuneIn app under College Sports Now.
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