Designing a Notre Dame Football Revenge Tour

A few weeks ago Phil posted here about home-and-homes he would like to see when Notre Dame plays Fighting Irish. As I pondered this question, I realized that most of my answers revolved around revenge: settling old scores with teams who had inflicted some injuries on the Irish in the recent past. This article combines that thought process with an amusing memory I had recently: namely, a certain Midwestern program’s recent attempt at a “revenge spree,” and how it ended:

As fun as it is to remind ourselves of the skunk bears stepping on this rake, the idea is not without merit. The thing is, it can’t just be a regular schedule: a true Count of Monte Cristo-style revenge planner has to be very focused, personal, and willing to wait patiently for years. So the question is, if I were Jack Swarbrick meticulously planning teams that have wronged the Irish to quench my thirst for revenge, who would I target?

For the purposes of this experiment, we’ll exclude yearly rivals like the USC Trojans and Stanford Cardinal since the opportunity for revenge is already built in (it’s not like these guys have given us much reason to fret over the last few years). For the same reason, we won’t be adding any teams to the 2022 schedule either, so no Clemson Tigers or Ohio State Buckeyes. Let’s dive in with these guidelines:

These programs have not been available for a long time, which is why they need to be kicked out. The scores here are old, some old enough that I don’t remember them – but the Irish never forget.

It’s hard to imagine today, but for a time in the 1990s, Colorado was a behemoth of a program and had several high-profile clashes with Lou Holtz’s Ireland teams. While the Irish drew first blood in the 1990 Orange Bowl, the Buffs won the 1991 sequel thanks to a horrific phantom clipping call that nullified a Rocket Ismail go-ahead touchdown.

The whistle save allowed the Buffs to capture a national championship that day at the expense of Notre Dame. Regardless, I wasn’t even born when this happened. Regardless, Rocket itself now cherishes this moment as a life lesson. It’s a sham crying for justice, and as the only subsequent game between the two teams was a 1996 Fiesta Bowl where an overwhelmed Irish team was easily overcome by a #4 Buffs team, we didn’t get it.

It may not be possible to give Nebraska a greater penalty than simply having to relive the last few decades of football, but I’d like to try. Not only did these guys use old Bob Davie teams in some of the first Notre Dame games I can remember, they popularized the trend of red teams taking over Notre Dame Stadium, a phenomenon that I’ve seen didn’t have to witness it in person now, but twice (note those of you who have tickets to the 2023 Ohio State Game).

View team prayer

If that’s not enough for you, consider this: Nebraska also spearheaded the 2010s conference realignment saga that ultimately led to Notre Dame losing its annual Midwest rivalries. So yeah, I’d say it’s about time Jack went on a date to push this show-off program a little further into the grave it’s dug for itself.

These are teams that recently embarrassingly/annoyingly beat the Irish, creating content fodder for choppy commenters and talking points for insufferable fan bases. These crimes cannot be allowed to continue and these programs must be put back in their place.

This one is personal to me because that’s what I was there for. I was there when Texas was BACK.


Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Subsequent developments made this game even worse in hindsight, as what seemed only a heartbreaking loss was the first domino in a miserable 2016 meltdown. Texas added further insult to injury by having a garbage season of its own, and indeed remains stuck in a swamp of incompetence to this day. That didn’t stop the Longhorns and their fans from building a legend around that night, and as a Texas resident, I still haven’t stopped hearing about it.

Dating the Longhorns is always fun, whether they’re up or down, but with the current state of the program, it’s time to get revenge on that wild, unforgettable, crazy night out in Austin.

If Miami’s 2017 season were a movie, it would be a rock doc: a rollicking rise to superstardom followed by an equally rapid and disastrous fall back to earth. Unfortunately, the pinnacle of their rise came with a thrashing of Ireland’s then No. 3. This was one of two big game blowouts (don’t worry, we’ll get to the other one later) in the late Kelly era that were confusing because the Irish weren’t physically overpowered, they just wouldn’t get off the bus (if we know (what we now know about Chip Long’s coaching style, those occasional offensive no-shows from 2017-19 make more sense).

Notre Dame vs. Miami

Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Regardless of how and why it happened, that night in Miami was one of the most miserable viewing experiences in recent memory for Irish fans and cannot be taken as the final word on this series.

Notre Dame’s 2021 clash with the Bearcats was the first game I’ve personally attended in over three years. What I hoped would be a triumphant return led to one of the most annoying games I’ve ever seen, for a number of reasons:

  • Despite the two-ball lead, Notre Dame should have won this game, and probably would have if they had avoided just a few of their many self-inflicted wounds on offense.
  • Ironically, Cincinnati cordoned off Notre Dame Stadium and partyed inside for half an hour after the game while we dutifully provided them with post-game music.
  • That game was the only thing that kept Notre Dame from making the playoffs for the second straight season.
  • The Bearcats were oh so petty in the aftermath, which I can respect – especially given the later developments – but fuck them anyway.

Cincinnati vs. Notre Dame

Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Yeah, get those guys back on track right now. This championship window won’t be open long and I hope we’re there to start the reckoning.

Yes, we’re back at the wretched northern rival who came up with this concept. I really don’t think I need to explain this, so let’s just point out that everything that was said above about the Miami 2017 game also applies to the Michigan 2019 game, and it’s doubly so, because it’s Michigan.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 26 Notre Dame, Michigan

Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Irish currently have no game scheduled with the Skunkbears until 2033, which is unacceptable. At this rate, who knows if we’ll even have civilization by then?

Ie the big boys. These are top notch programs that the Irish have had memorable clashes with in recent years. Revenge factor aside, these would just be great games and ways for Notre Dame to move forward as a program.

This was a great home game that produced some incredible games and should be redone for that reason alone. Add to that the ridiculous, embarrassing whining of the Dawgs about the 2018 playoffs – remember, that awesome and over-talented Georgia team who’d already lost two and then been overwhelmed by Texas with four losses – and the aforementioned 2017 takeover of the stadium, and you got me out of revenge.

University of Georgia vs. University of Notre Dame

Record number: X162911 TK1

This is just a classic grudge match that must be on the schedule soon. If that’s the case, hold your butt (and your tickets) tight.

This could probably be placed in the latter category, as the immediate reason for the Sooners’ inclusion here is Notre Dame’s home loss to them in 2013, a vexing game that saw the Irish take on a very beatable Oklahoma team in the opening minutes have handed over. But other factors also play a role here.

Oklahoma vs. Notre Dame

While Notre Dame routinely faces the “they shouldn’t be in the playoffs” treatment due to some nasty losses, Oklahoma routinely slips in without much protest despite having an objectively worse track record, with equally nasty losses and twice no win as many attempts. These guys are the real playoff charity case, but they don’t get any of the heat. You can also throw in the recent addition of Brent Venables, which redirects Clemson’s hatred in the direction of the Sooners.

(It’s also worth noting that with my last name and living with many Oklahoma alums, I have a vested interest in taking these guys off the shelf).

Much like Michigan, I don’t think this really needs explaining other than saying Alabama is the final boss. These were always the lads who brutally reminded Notre Dame that she still has more to climb and the Irish couldn’t make a bigger statement than finally ending that climb in victory.

College Football Playoff Semifinals at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Capital One - Alabama vs. Notre Dame

Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

I hope it doesn’t have to wait that long, but the tide will roll in to South Bend in 2029. One hopes the Irish will be ready by then.

Someone would surely address this in the comments if I didn’t address it, so I will. Due to some family ties to the school, I have generally positive feelings about the LSU Tigers as a program. I’ve only had good interactions with their fan base and I certainly don’t hate them for courting Brian Kelly – you can’t blame competitors for competing, and it was absolutely in their best interest, the Brinks truck to support forever home”

Kelly herself is a different animal. I can understand his decision to leave Notre Dame given the offer he received, and I probably would have been content to see him float away in the sunset before this spring. His recent lame, overcompensating ex-complaint changed my perception, and the notion of a Marcus Freeman-trained team made up of players Kelly could never have recruited at Notre Dame rolling to Baton Rouge and beating his new team is quite appetizing. So yeah, throw LSU on the tour — a home-and-home with LSU is a planned home run anyway.

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