For the first time since head coach Brian Kelly’s inaugural campaign in 2010, Notre Dame will play seven home games season. And for the first time since 2009, Charlie Weis’ final season as the Irish coach, the university will not hold a Shamrock Series outing.
This year will be only the seventh time Notre Dame will play seven home games.
The first occurred in 1988, its most recent national title year, and hosting seven was not by design. The Irish were supposed to play at SMU that season to return a home-and-home series, with the Irish having defeated the Mustangs at home in 1986 (61-29). However, because of the death penalty placed on SMU by the NCAA, it did not play football in 1987 and 1988, and the void on the Notre Dame schedule was filled when Rice agreed to visit the Irish that season.
The other five seasons with seven home games were not nearly as beneficial, with Notre Dame finishing only a combined 32-30: 1999 (5-7), 2006 (10-3), 2007 (3-9), 2009 (6-6) and 2010 (8-5).
The Irish were 2-4 at home last year while suffering more defeats in Notre Dame Stadium than the four previous years combined. From 2012-15 under Kelly, Notre Dame had a 21-3 home record (.875), including unbeaten marks in 2012 and 2015. The latter was particularly notable because in the 22 seasons from 1990-2011, the Irish were unblemished at home only once (1998).
Unfortunately, last year also marked only the fourth time since 1964 Notre Dame finished under .500 on its home turf. The others were 1983 (2-3), 1984 (2-3) and 2007 (1-6).
Among Notre Dame’s seven home games in 2017 while christening the new Campus Crossroad construction, it should be heavily favored in four: Temple (Sept. 2), Miami (Ohio) (Sept. 30), Wake Forest (Nov. 4) and Navy (Nov. 18).
The Oct. 28 matchup against North Carolina State is plenty winnable as well. Finally, while the Irish might be deemed the potential underdog at home against Georgia (Sept. 9) and USC (Oct. 21), ESPN’s Football Power Index still has given Notre Dame a 51.2 percent chance of defeating the Bulldogs and a surprising 56.8 percent opportunity versus the Trojans. Georgia has not had a regular season game north of the Mason-Dixon line since 1965, and USC has lost on its last two trips to South Bend.
Whether the Shamrock Series, held in San Antonio last year versus Army West Point, has run its course as an annual event is to be determined. Notre Dame vice president/director of athletics Jack Swarbrick has stated he wants to restore the Shamrock Series in 2018 and beyond and that it be more “opponent driven.”
However, the options there might be more limited. Notre Dame likely would either have to move a potential home game versus a marquee opponent to another venue, or play a less appealing one such as Army West Point in 2016, which would not fit the opponent-driven model.
The Shamrock Series is not off the table, but the days of it being an annual event might not be realistic, and an opportunity for seven home games more regularly would be an alternative.