Brian Kelly's Wish to Continue Series vs. Michigan, Michigan State Has Obstacles

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Brian Kelly's Wish to Continue Series vs. Michigan, Michigan State Has Obstacles
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You don't have to be a traditionalist to realize conference realignment has altered college football in a way that nothing else has. 

The obvious example is that rivalries have been crumpled up, thrown out the window and onto the highway like a used piece of trash.

Notre Dame's future is still in football independence, but an agreement with the ACC has the Irish heading east a few times every year. Combine five ACC games for Notre Dame and the Big Ten's nine-game schedule beginning in 2016, and there simply isn't a lot of room on the schedule for games against Michigan and Michigan State to continue every year. 

Still, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly would like to see future games against the Wolverines and the Spartans. Here's what Kelly said earlier this week, via ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg and Matt Fortuna

When [athletic director Jack Swarbrick] and I sit down and we start discussing 'what do you want to do?' we don't start or end that without having Michigan or Michigan State part of that conversation, and there's an SEC school involved in that conversation, as well. I can assure you that Michigan, Michigan State and an SEC school is involved in those conversations. How that pans out, I'm telling you, it's a very complicated deal.

For what it's worth, Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told ESPN in the same article that he has had no conversations with Notre Dame about continuing the series. (Notre Dame's agreement with the ACC resulted in the school's decision to suspend the series.) 

According to FBSchedules.com, Notre Dame and Michigan will play for the final time in the foreseeable future this year (Sept. 6); Michigan State is sprinkled sporadically throughout the Irish's future schedules. 

Yes, Notre Dame, Michigan and Michigan State could just agree to continue home-and-home games, but scheduling is rarely, if ever, that simple. Other nonconference games are already in place, and there's always the pressure to have seven home games. 

JOE RAYMOND/Associated Press

Michigan and Michigan State will be in the Big Ten's new East Division and host five home conference games on even-numbered years. That means two nonconference games would have to be home games in those years. During odd-numbered years, the goal would be to have all three nonconference games played at home. 

"We have situations where we can't play them, they have situations where they can't play us," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis told Joe Rexrode of USA Today, "and it's just kind of the roadkill of conference expansion that's (forced) these close rivalries to…we both want to play each other, we just can't."

Tony Ding/Associated Press

The other thing to consider is that teams don't want to schedule themselves out of a College Football Playoff spot. With the ACC and the SEC remaining at eight conference games, conferences are showing they are unwilling to change their format unless they absolutely have to.

Strength of schedule is becoming a facade. The "requirement" of scheduling one Power 5 opponent a year as a strength-of-schedule argument is a fallacy, as that opponent could be Indiana or Kansas (sorry, Indiana and Kansas). 

Whether there's active communication or not, there are simply too many factors in the scheduling puzzle for Notre Dame to play Michigan and Michigan State on a continuous basis. 

Kelly's wish is noble and something fans of both sides would probably like to see happen. They just shouldn't count on it. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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