Wetzel: This Year Makes Notre Dame’s Independence Look Very Smart

first_imgNotre Dame runs onto the field ahead of a game vs. Wake Forest.SOUTH BEND, IN – NOVEMBER 04: The macot, cheerleaders and players forthe Notre Dame Fighting Irish run onto the field before a game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Notre Dame Stadium on November 4, 2017 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Wake Forest 48-37. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)Notre Dame football’s arrangement as an independent program has long been the focus of debate, both within the Fighting Irish fan base, and more fervently outside of it.Independence is a proud Notre Dame tradition, for everything that comes with it, specifically a school-specific television deal with NBC, and extreme scheduling flexibility.This season may go a long way towards solidifying Notre Dame’s independence for the long term.The Fighting Irish are currently No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings, thanks in large part to a Week 1 win over No. 4 Michigan. If Notre Dame beats No. 12 Syracuse on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, and rival USC on the road in Week 13, it will almost definitely be in the field of four.Since the beginning of the College Football Playoff back in 2014, there has been plenty of speculation whether the lack of a conference championship would ultimately doom the Fighting Irish, should they be in Playoff contention. It may require winning out, but this year it looks like the answer is no. Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel writes that this season is proving that Notre Dame’s continued independence is a stroke of brilliance.His main focus is what it allows the Fighting Irish to do with the schedule on a yearly basis. Notre Dame has used its ACC scheduling agreement to bolster its brand in Florida and the rest of the Southeast, while continued Navy, Stanford, and USC rivalries give them chances to hit other valuable recruiting areas.The trip to New York comes between trips to Chicago (a victory over Northwestern two weeks ago in the near north suburb of Evanston) and Los Angeles (season-ending rivalry game at USC on Thanksgiving weekend).New York, L.A., Chicago … 1-2-3 of the biggest cities in America for a program running at full throttle. In between the Irish’s tour of major market, recruit-rich America was last week’s throttling of Florida State at home under their golden dome. It was preceded by beating Navy in San Diego.No one else in college football can duplicate such a stretch.It’s a reminder that the conventional wisdom on the Irish was always short-sighted. And Notre Dame’s administration wasn’t just stubborn or snobby in rejecting a spot in the Big Ten, it was visionary.That is all well-and-good, and valuable because of Notre Dame’s status as a selective, private school in Indiana. Still, if an undefeated Notre Dame looked like it might be left outside of the top four, the ACC and Big Ten would be blowing up phones in South Bend.Instead, it looks like the Fighting Irish will be able to have their cake and eat it to, if they take care of business against the Orange and Trojans. For the program, that is a massive win.[Yahoo! Sports]last_img read more

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