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Irish Insights

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Balancing the schedule

Notre Dame is making its last trip to play in Michigan Stadium for a while when the No. 14 Irish (1-0) play No. 17 Michigan (1-0) at 8 p.m. Saturday.

The series between the programs will end after next year’s game in Notre Dame Stadium as the Irish try create as much flexibility in their schedule as possible with the team playing five Atlantic Coast Conference teams every season starting in 2014.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said when the deal was struck to play five ACC schools every season as part of the Irish joining the conference in all sports except football and hockey, that he wanted to keep games against USC, Stanford and Navy on the schedule every year.

The Irish’s desire to keep their West Coast trip (USC or Stanford) and annual game against Navy (the teams have played 86 times since 1927) leaves only four open slots on each season’s schedule.

“I think if you look at the four, we’re trying to obviously keep a national perspective on it,” coach Brian Kelly said of how Notre Dame will try to schedule moving forward. “A program like Michigan is coming off, but Texas is coming on. So I think you’re going to be trading a national profile programs for that.

“I think we’re also looking at areas where our Shamrock Series can be touted or played geographically, whether that be on the East Coast or in some areas that geographically make sense to us. And then I think finally where we can bring this schedule together is balance and still give us the quality schedule that when the committee looks at a schedule in whole and decides who of those four, or maybe down the road eight teams, relative to playoffs, that they can look at our schedule and say, that’s a deserving schedule.”

The final part of Kelly’s comment about future schedules is about the College Football Playoffs that will replace the BCS after this season.

In 2014, four teams will be selected for the playoff to crown a national champion, and Kelly said putting a schedule together that will help the Irish get into the playoff is as important as keeping traditional rivalry games and a national schedule intact

“We have to balance all those things together,” Kelly said.

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