Brian Kelly’s Fighting Irish football squad took care of business this past week 52-20 over the Naval Academy. Eric Hansen’s report in the SB Tribune and NDinsider.com ended up being the only BIG news from Saturday. Notre Dame’s 273-game home sellout streak came to an end. The first non-sellout crowd (74,080, with 77,622 being capacity) to watch a game at Notre Dame Stadium in 46 years. So my question? Who stopped footing the bill to pay for all the tickets that normally go unsold. While many fans have pointed to weather, raised ticket prices, and a lack of theatrics aka the Irish are not part of post-season playoff discussion, it’s clear someone or some fund didn’t pay up this time around. Listen, this isn't the first time season ticket prices have gone up, this isn’t the first time the weather has been bad, and this isn't the first time the Irish haven't been in the national championship picture. So, who got mad?
While I may digress, let’s talk about Navy for a minute. Who, after a 52-20 victory wants to keep them on the schedule? Not me. In regards to Navy on the schedule, t’s a polarizing topic. A lot of people don’t like keeping Navy on the schedule, but we know Notre Dame is going to keep them on because of a promise they made almost 80 years ago. This series is LOSE/LOSE. Beat them and “you’re supposed to,” but lose to them and you're a goat. With teams like Michigan not on the schedule until 2034, and Notre Dame’s ACC ties, I think it is time to make the Navy game more sporadic.
Brian Kelly was asked last week about how many other top-tier college football teams are playing FCS schools at this time of year, meanwhile Notre Dame’s last six games are against Navy and five Power-5 teams. Kelly said that “we're not going to play any FCS teams here, so I've lost that argument a long time ago. Wasn't even up for discussion, so I don't think it was an argument.”
ESPN.com did a recent survey that included 62 of the 65 Power 5 College Football Coaches including Brian Kelly. The three coaches who did not respond were Alabama’s Nick Saban, Ed Orgeron of LSU, and UCLA’s Chip Kelly.
The coaches were asked a handful of questions, let’s go through a couple of them:
30 of the 62 respondents, including Brian Kelly, think the College Football Playoff should expand to at least 8 teams. Dabo Swinney is the most prominent NO vote:
“The way we have it right now, every game we have, especially once we were positioned, every game was a playoff game. Every game. Duke was a playoff game. South Carolina was a playoff game. Pitt was a playoff game. We have layers of playoffs. The more you expand, the less the season matters, especially if a team so-called already in the playoff, well, now you're going to have people not playing guys, just like you have in all these other sports. All of a sudden, games don't matter because everybody is just playing for the playoff and they're in. What we have is the best of both worlds.”
With nine of its 14 coaches in favor of expansion, the Big Ten had the most overwhelming support, possibly reflective of the fact that its conference champion has been left out of the top four in each of the past three seasons.
Another question posed to the coaches was “should you have to win your league to be eligible for the playoffs?”
36 said NO, 16 said Yes, 7 said Maybe, and 3 said they don’t know.
Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia said, “No I don't, because the current Power 5 conferences in any given year are playing at different levels. Sometimes a conference champion isn't as good as a second-place team in another league.”
Lovie Smith, Illinois said, “Yes, I do. I thought that when Penn State won it and didn't go. I think as a general rule, if you're the champion of one of the major conferences, yes, you should go. Why do we have conferences anyway if you're not going to let the champion go there?”
The FCS stuff stirred-up some fans. And Kelly noted, “Yeah, I mean, it's a daunting schedule, but that's why you have to have a difficult schedule here at Notre Dame to hold the test up against other conferences. Last year we were like an on-Broadway play. We opened in a theatre near you. We were all over the country. It's the nature of our schedule. We have to prepare for it and train our guys the right way, so when it's time to come to November we are not worn out mentally or physically.”
Be sure to tune in the final two weeks of the regular season to find out. Oh, and be sure to watch the Irish hockey team too!