It has been almost a decade since Notre Dame last played an SEC opponent in the regular season. After the Irish's 41-21 victory over Tennessee in 2005, Notre Dame and the SEC have not crossed paths outside of two BCS bowl meetings.
That changed Wednesday, when Georgia confirmed heavy speculation that the Bulldogs and the Irish would meet in a home-and-home series, via Georgia's official athletic website. Georgia will travel to South Bend on Sept. 9, 2017, with Notre Dame making a return trip to Athens on Sept. 21, 2019.
"Playing Notre Dame will be an honor and a great challenge for us," said Georgia head coach Mark Richt. "I have a lot of respect for the job Coach Kelly is doing there and I'm sure college football fans across the country will enjoy watching our two teams compete."
The two teams have met just once, in the 1981 Sugar Bowl, when the Bulldogs defeated the Irish 17-10 to claim their second national championship. Despite playing nonconference road games against ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 teams in recent years, Georgia has not ventured into the Midwest since 1965, when it defeated Michigan in Ann Arbor.
In the past quarter-century, Notre Dame has faced Tennessee six times in the regular season and LSU and Vanderbilt twice, sporting a 7-3 record against the SEC in regular-season games. The Irish went 3-3 against the Volunteers and swept home-and-home series with the Tigers and the Commodores.
The Irish have dropped all three bowl meetings against the SEC in that time—the 1997 Independence Bowl to LSU, the 2007 Sugar Bowl to LSU and the 2013 BCS National Championship Game to Alabama.
|2012||Alabama||Miami (2013 BCS National Championship)||L, 42-14|
|2006||LSU||New Orleans (2007 Sugar Bowl)||L, 41-14|
|2005||Tennessee||South Bend||W, 41-21|
|2001||Tennessee||South Bend||L, 28-18|
|1998||LSU||South Bend||W, 39-36|
|1997||LSU||Shreveport (1997 Independence Bowl)||L, 27-9|
|1997||LSU||Baton Rouge||W, 24-6|
University of Notre Dame
While SEC teams were mandated earlier this year to begin playing at least one major opponent each season beginning in 2016, Georgia already plays Georgia Tech each season. Adding Notre Dame was seen as an additional opportunity for Georgia to increase its strength of schedule on top of its eight SEC games and rivalry with the Yellow Jackets.
For Notre Dame, this gives the Irish an additional opportunity to gain exposure in the South, where they have ramped up recruiting efforts under Brian Kelly. The Irish have signed TJ Jones, Stephon Tuitt and Isaac Rochell from Georgia in the Kelly era.
Ultimately, the biggest winners are college football fans. Intersectional matchups at campus sites have declined in an era in which most major programs demand seven home games or another cash cow, such as a neutral-site game in an NFL stadium. We now have a highly intriguing one to look forward to at the end of this decade.