Notre Dame-Georgia Home-and-Home A Double-Down on Strength of Schedule

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Notre Dame and Georgia announced Wednesday that the two nationally recognized college football powerhouses will meet in 2017 and 2019. This isn’t some one-off opening weekend foray at Cowboys Stadium, either. We’re talking a home-and-home series that sends the Fighting Irish Between The Hedges, and the Bulldogs before Touchdown Jesus.

Praise to the college football heavens!

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick explained the process of brokering a home-and-home series with Georgia, via UND.com:

As our football schedules evolved with the start of our Atlantic Coast Conference competition in 2014, we had future games slated with top-drawer opponents in virtually all the major conferences. One exception was the Southeastern Conference, so we are pleased now to be able to check that box. These will be two contests that will have great national appeal, in part because our only previous matchup came in a bowl game.

The Irish typically play one of the more ambitious schedules each year, throwing marquee games with power conference opponents like Oklahoma and Arizona State into the mix with traditional rivals USC, Stanford, Boston College, Michigan and Michigan State.

But in the outset of the College Football Playoff era, Notre Dame is doubling down on strength of schedule by crafting a star-studded docket with the intent of impressing the selection committee.

The first phase in Notre Dame’s plan was its partnership with the ACC, which guarantees the Irish four games against opponents from the conference.

While Notre Dame has typically played multiple opponents from the Big Ten in past seasons, and in 2009, 2013 and 2014 drew three Pac-12 teams, the yearly scheduling deal with the ACC is the closest the Irish have ever been to official conference membership.

This year, the partnership means a high-profile showdown with defending national champion Florida State. In 2015, it sends Notre Dame to Death Valley to face Clemson.

Also in 2015 is Notre Dame’s home-half of a series against Texas. The Fighting Irish are using their independence to gain exposure in every power conference’s regional footprint.

To wit:

2014: ACC (Syracuse, Florida State, North Carolina, Louisville); Big Ten (Michigan, Purdue, Northwestern); Pac-12 (Stanford, Arizona State, USC)

2015: ACC (Virginia, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Pitt, Wake Forest, Boston College); Big 12 (Texas); Pac-12 (USC, Stanford)

2016: ACC (Duke, Syracuse, NC State, Miami, Virginia Tech); Big 12 (Texas); Big Ten (Michigan State); Pac-12 (Stanford, USC)

The Notre Dame-Georgia series is a big piece of the puzzle, giving Notre Dame matchups with all five power conferences in the next four years.

From the opposite end, Georgia is taking a significant step forward in scheduling that could open pipelines between the SEC and programs in the North.

The Bulldogs have not shied from challenging nonconference games. This year, they open with Clemson for the second time in as many seasons. Georgia has also proved willing to leave its region, visiting Colorado in the Buffaloes last year as Big 12’s members (2010), and going to Arizona State two years before that.

But taking on a home-and-home with Notre Dame could encourage more SEC matchups with the more prominent teams in the Upper Midwest. Certainly more series between SEC members and the Fighting Irish could be intriguing. The idea of Les Miles and LSU visiting the Big House or Urban Meyer returning to the Swamp as head coach at Ohio State is downright tantalizing.

College football heavens, are you listening?