Brian Kelly Wants to Play the SEC, but He Should Be Careful What He Wishes for
Notre Dame's schedule has always been a subject of debate, which seems natural since the school is "independent" and doesn't have any conference ties to adhere to.
That system will change—to an extent—in 2014, when the Irish will begin playing a partial ACC schedule. And now that he's saddled with scheduling commitments, in a convenient fit of timing, Brian Kelly says he would have loved to play the SEC during the regular season.
Per Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune:
#NotreDame coach Brian Kelly would like to play SEC during reg season, but ACC commitment gets in way. Calls Georgia a natural matchup.— Eric Hansen (@hansenNDInsider) August 2, 2013
That's a brash assertion from Kelly, one that's much easier to make when no SEC teams are actually on his schedule. He wouldn't be as gung ho about scheduling SEC opponents if the matter was less hypothetical.
The last time Notre Dame played an SEC opponent was last year's BCS National Championship Game. The Irish were "technically" the No. 1 team in the nation, but SEC foe Alabama destroyed them to the tune of 42-14.
That embarrassing defeat was Notre Dame's first tussle with the SEC since January of 2007, when Charlie Weis' Irish played LSU in the Sugar Bowl. That game ended in almost-identical fashion, with Notre Dame losing to the JaMarcus Russell-led Tigers 41-14.
Georgia, meanwhile—a team Kelly called a "natural matchup"—played Alabama down to the wire in last year's SEC Championship Game, leading with four minutes left in the game and coming within five yards of pulling the upset. Because Notre Dame's paltry effort provided so little closure, some have called that game last year's "de facto" national championship.
USA Today's Dan Wolken was also confused by the "natural matchup" part of Kelly's statement:
How is Notre Dame-Georgia a natural matchup? Aside from the gobs of players Notre Dame would like to recruit there, that is.— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) August 2, 2013
Yeah, it would benefit Notre Dame by exposing the program to highly touted Georgia recruits, but isn't that a little too partisan to be considered "natural"? For Georgia, it would actually feel pretty contrived.
Every part of this rings artificial, especially from a timing perspective. It seems more than a coincidence for Kelly to say all this now, past the point where scheduling SEC opponents is actually possible.
But if, down the line, a Southeastern team pops up on his slate, Kelly might learn to be careful what he wished for.
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