In what may be the least anticipated Notre Dame game since the 2007 season, the Irish travel to San Antonio to clash with the Black Knights in the eighth installment of the Shamrock Series and a continuation of the most important rivalry in college football history.
The matchups between ND and Army in the first half of the 20th century built the foundation that allowed the sport of college football to evolve into the machine it is today.
In the days where professional football was on the back-burner, big boxing matches and horse races were the only events in the sports scene that could match the anticipation of a Notre Dame-Army game. Not to mention it was at halftime of the 1928 Army game that Knute Rockne gave his famous “Keep Them on the Run” speech.
The college football landscape has changed immensely since those days, but this game provides an opportunity for younger generations to understand the immense contributions this these two teams have made to the American sports culture.
As disappointing as Notre Dame has been this year, Saturday shouldn’t put too much stress on the already frayed nerves of Irish fans.
Army runs the triple option, but not nearly as effectively as Navy and their defense provides and even bigger mismatch athletically than Navy did.
The Black Knights do have some impressive wins over Temple and Wake Forest this season and are just one win from their first bowl since 2010.
There were a number of reasons why Notre Dame fell to Navy last week, but the biggest factor was time of possession. The Irish had just six offensive possessions, the lowest amount of possessions in a game in the NCAA since Northern Illinois had six in 2011, also against Navy.
Provided the Irish can avoid back-to-back historic possession limitations, they should be able to ware down the Army front and cruise to a comfortable victory.
The Irish last played Army in 2010 in a Shamrock Series game at Yankee Stadium. The Irish came out victorious 27-3 as apart of a four-game winning streak to close out the season.
ND leads the all-time series 38-8-4 and have won 14 straight against Army – their longest current winning streak against any opponent. Army last defeated the Irish in 1958.
Here is a stat that illustrates how illogical the Notre Dame season has been. The Irish are 3-6 and have a +20-point differential this season. Saturday will also mark the ninth time in 10 games that ND has been favored.
If all else fails, basketball season also starts Saturday and after the last few years, aren’t we really more of a basketball school anyways?
Shamrock Series Questions
Because of the limited juice behind this week’s matchup, there has been increased chatter surrounding the merits of the Shamrock Series.
The annual contest began in 2009 in San Antonio with the Irish squaring off with Washington State and the game has been a staple of the ND schedule ever since. With the Campus Crossroads project set to be completed in July, the Irish will take a one year hiatus and will resume the series in 2018 with a site and opponent to be announced.
Maybe it’s the negativity of 2016 seeping into the conversation, but I have heard a lot of ND fans questioning the value of the Shamrock Series heading into this weekend.
When it was first announced the ND schedule structure was supposed to be 7-4-1, but it has evolved into a 6-5-1 setup. The paramount question: are the benefits of the Shamrock Series game worth moving a home game to an off-campus site?
Nothing can demonstrate the reach of the university and the football program quite like the Shamrock Series games. I have been to three of them: 2011 vs. Maryland at FedEx field, 2012 vs. Miami at Soldier Field, and 2013 vs. Arizona State at Jerry World.
Although the Irish have never lost a Shamrock Series game, people often complain about the lack of juice for the off-campus event.
There was very little atmosphere at the 2011 game – a combination of two average teams and the cavernous nature of FedEx Field. The 2012 and 2013 games where great atmospheres and great games from an ND perspective.
2009, 2010, 2011 showed average ND teams against bad opponents, while the 2014 and 2015 games were quagmires as the Irish struggled to put away inferior competition.
Obviously the game is the center of attention of the event, but the future benefits can supersede the on-field execution.
Going to places like Texas and playing in iconic venues like Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park differentiate Notre Dame from any other school and can strike a chord with recruits. No other school can pick a stadium on the other side of the country and sell it out.
Not to mention, it is pretty fun as a fan to emasculate schools like BC and Maryland by going to their hometowns and taking over.
Where does the Shamrock Series go from here? That decision lies in h hands of Jack Swarbrick. The future locations have yet to be announced, but you can rest assured that they will be played in in fertile recruiting regions or at iconic venues.
My personal choices going forward would be Lambeau Field, Wrigley Field, the Superdome, Mercedes-Benz Stadium (the new stadium being built in Atlanta to supplant the Georgia Dome), University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., Arrowhead Stadium, and a return visit to Jerry World.