Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 17, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 37 of 55

38 SEPT. 17, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI THE SEC 'MARKER' Notre Dame's national schedule as a football independent generally entails having representation from each of the Power Five conferences — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — to serve as a marker for the College Football Playoff committee. • As a partial football member of the ACC, Notre Dame has that league taken care of with four to six games per season. • With its geographic proximity and long history with the Fighting Irish, the Big Ten will have consis- tent representation on the schedule, including Michigan State (2016-17 and 2026-27), Michigan (2018-19) and Northwestern (2014 and 2018) this year, plus Wisconsin (2020-21), Ohio State (2022-23) and Purdue (2021, 2025-28) in the future. • The Pac-12 is set with USC and Stanford joining Navy as annuals on the slate. • The Big 12 is a little trickier, but still had its two biggest brands on the docket in 2012-13 with Oklahoma and 2015-16 with Texas. However, where Notre Dame ath- letics director Jack Swarbrick has es- pecially placed a premium on getting more consistent representation is the SEC, generally regarded as the top football league in the country. From the turn of the century through 2016, Notre Dame's lone SEC regular-season foe was Tennes- see (1999 and 2001, and 2004-05). Getting southern schools to travel north is not a simple endeavor, but Swarbrick's efforts have been met pretty well. It began with a first-ever home- and-home versus Georgia (2017 and 2019), followed by first-ever meet- ings with Arkansas at home in 2020 and then at Fayetteville in 2025. In addition, Texas A&M has been lined up in 2024-25, while Alabama is signed for 2028-29. This year is unusual in that Vander- bilt agreed to a one-game series at Notre Dame without a return match in Nashville, which is generally un- heard of if not unacceptable among Power Five schools. Nevertheless, it fulfills a Notre Dame goal of having a broad-based schedule that members of the College Football Playoff com- mittee can use to assess how the Irish match up versus each league. It's not the marquee matchup of a Georgia, but it still displays an in- tent to schedule Power Five teams as opposed to interspersing too many "body bag games," a la Alabama having Arkansas State, Louisiana and The Citadel in 2018. BACK TO REALITY Entering the 2018 college foot- ball season, Vanderbilt ranked 93rd among the 130 Football Bowl Sub- division teams in all-time winning percentage (.495), and 56th among the 65 Power Five schools. Its "Golden Age" of football actu- ally occurred this decade under head coach James Franklin (now at Penn State) who in 2012 and 2013 guided the Commodores to consecutive 9-4 seasons, with bowl wins in each and a No. 23 finish in the Associated Press poll in 2012 plus No. 24 in 2013. It marked the first time Vanderbilt won a school-record nine games in consecutive years, captured back-to- back bowls and finished ranked two years in a row in the AP poll. The only other time Vanderbilt placed in the final AP poll was 1948 at No. 12. In fact, in the 53 years from 1959-2011, only twice did the Commo- dores even appear in the poll at any point in the season (1984 and 2008). In other words, Franklin's three- year stretch in Nashville made him the school's football coaching version of Knute Rockne. No SEC foe should be considered a "gimme" or taken lightly, but other than its glorious stretch under Frank- lin, Vanderbilt has been perceived as an esteemed private research uni- versity with a football stadium that fits only 40,550 and has been sort of the "black sheep" of the SEC when it comes to football prowess. GAME PREVIEW: VANDERBILT Top STorylineS Former Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason posted an 18-31 record (.367 winning percentage) in his first four seasons as the head coach at Vanderbilt. PHOTO COURTESY VANDERBILT ATHLETICS

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Sept. 17, 2018