Notre Dame As a Contestant in the SEC?

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Texas A&M has recently been added to Notre Dame’s football schedule, a testament to the new era of college football where the elite teams no longer shy away from premier content during their out of conference slates. The two will face off in College Station in 2024 and reciprocate the bout in South Bend in 2025. The Notre Dame football program, which is notorious for maintaining an “independent” status despite the rest of the school’s sports recently merging with the Atlantic Coast Conference, has now added two home and away series against SEC teams to its regular season schedule. The Irish most recently announced a home and away series with the Georgia Bulldogs.

Although typically known for having an overall strong football program, one might question Notre Dame’s capabilities against the Southeastern Conference, which has in recent years been recognized as the power conference of college football. Notre Dame has a storied tradition for certain, but how do they stack up against the competition today? After Alabama’s staggering National Championship 42-14 victory over the Fighting Irish in 2013, is Notre Dame really ready to integrate SEC teams into their schedule on a regular basis?

Everett Golson’s return to Notre Dame as quarterback has proven to be a season of redemption. The junior’s name has circulated many Heisman watch lists and he has led the Fighting Irish to a 5-0 start. Notre Dame currently holds a top ten spot in college football rankings amongst many of the SEC’s strongest teams. If the Irish can continue to recruit some of the nation’s rising collegiate football talent, they have a realistic shot at adding more competing with the SEC teams on their schedule. Additionally, other members of the SEC have been adding more teams to their schedules outside of their own conference, not just Texas A&M and Georgia. Eliminating games against schools from lower divisions would benefit the SEC in both the potential to increase attendance at games and promoting competition across conferences. Not to mention the benefits of broadcasting games on the SEC Network that feature top teams with strong viewerships outside their assumed market.

The first year of the new College Football Playoff system has opened up a lot of opportunity for Notre Dame to prove themselves as an independent team with few prior interactions with larger conferences such as the SEC. If Notre Dame continues their winning streak and advances to the playoffs, more Top 25 teams may be inclined to consider adding the Fighting Irish to their regular season schedules. The chance to play more notable teams will also provide Notre Dame with more recruiting leverage and put them in competition with conference-oriented recruiting bases.

*Section Photo credit to Jeff Zelevansky, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to  Danny Moloshok, AP Photo

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