Notre Dame Releases 2021 Football Schedule
The University of Notre Dame has officially released the 12-game 2021 football schedule that will feature six home games, five on the road and the showdown at Chicago’s Soldier Field versus the University of Wisconsin.
Two-first time visitors to Notre Dame Stadium from Ohio — Toledo and Cincinnati — also dot the slate. Some of the top storylines include:
1. Working On Labor Day Again
For the second time in three years, Notre Dame will open on Labor Day Monday. This year it will be at Louisville (Sept. 2), and in 2021 it will be at Florida State (Sept. 6), which in 2018 had its first losing record (5-7) since going 5-6 in 1976. One of the defeats last year was 42-13 at Notre Dame.
2. Quick Turnaround
Unlike in 2019 when the Fighting Irish have a bye after playing Louisville, in 2021 they will host Mid-American Conference foe Toledo, a first-time opponent five days later that Saturday. The Rockets have advanced to five straight bowl games since 2014 while posting a 46-19 record.
This will mark the first time since 1975, when Dan Devine debuted as Notre Dame’s head coach, that the Irish will play two games in five days. That year Notre Dame won both at Boston College (17-3) in the Sept. 15 opener and then on the road again five days later versus Purdue (17-0), which had upset the Irish the year prior. That earned Devine and the Irish a cover story in Sports Illustrated.
3. Return Of A Rival
The Purdue Boilermakers are back on the slate (Sept. 18) for the first time since 2014. The in-state rivals had met every year from 1946-2014, and their 86 meetings (Notre Dame leads series 58-26-2 when including 2012-13 “vacated” wins) are the third most for the Fighting Irish, behind 92 with Navy and 90 against USC.
Now in his third year at West Lafayette, head coach Jeff Brohm has revitalized the Boilermakers with two straight bowl appearance and three wins last year versus ranked foes, highlighted by a 49-20 dismantling of then No. 2-ranked Ohio State. Brohm signed an extension through 2024.
4. Wisconsin In The Windy City
The two-game series with Wisconsin — 2020 at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field and 2021 at Chicago’s Soldier Field — has been much anticipated because of the venues and the fact that the Badgers have become a bona fide top-25 program over the past 25 years. Since 1993 they also have had eight AP top 10 finishes, including No. 7 in 2017, compared to Notre Dame’s four.
The two schools had not met in football since 1964, in head coach Ara Parseghian’s coaching debut with the Irish.
5. Sentimental Addition?
Brian Kelly’s current contract expires after this 2021 season, unless he opts to sign an extension. By the time he reaches that season, he will have coached more seasons than the 11 apiece by Frank Leahy, Parseghian and Lou Holtz, and will have been on the sidelines for the most games ever by a Notre Dame head coach in football.
Thus, it’s interesting that Cincinnati was added as a home game. Kelly coached the Bearcats from 2007-09, leading them to a 12-0 mark in 2009 prior to accepting the Notre Dame job that December. He joins Urban Meyer as having the unique distinction of leading 12-0 regular seasons at two Football Bowl Subdivision schools.
The only other meeting with the Bearcats was in 1900, a 58-0 Notre Dame romp.
6. The Virginians
Until 2015, the Notre Dame football team had never played in the state of Virginia. In 2021 it will play both in Blacksburg versus Virginia Tech (Oct. 9) and then in Charlottesville against Virginia (Nov. 13). Those two teams also will be visiting Notre Dame this season.
7. Bye Ways
One aspect of the schedule Notre Dame has perfected this decade is having the bye week come right at the halfway point, and usually to coincide with fall semester break. It did so again in 2021 with the Oct. 16 bye prior to hosting archrival USC Oct. 23.
Here is the full schedule, with the all-time Notre Dame series record in parentheses:
Notre Dame 2021 Schedule
Sept. 6 — at Florida State (3-6)
Sept. 11 — Toledo (0-0)
Sept. 18 — Purdue (58-26-2)
Sept. 25 — vs. Wisconsin* (8-6-2)
Oct. 2 — Cincinnati (1-0)
Oct. 9 — at Virginia Tech (1-1)
Oct. 23 — USC (48-37-5)
Oct. 30 — North Carolina (18-2)
Nov. 6 — Navy (78-13-1)
Nov. 13 — at Virginia (2-0)
Nov. 20 — Georgia Tech (28-6-1)
Nov. 27 — at Stanford (20-13)