We all remember last off season and the turmoil and rumors surrounding conference realignment. Let bring that discussion back towards that topic and chat ND and conferences. NO, NO, NO, this is not a post about why I think ND should join a conference. This is a post about how the Irish have fared against the conferences over the years. This post will contain spreadsheets, but a lot less confusing spreadsheets than the ones Poot uses over at Her Loyal Sons.
So join me on this wonderful journey as we take a look back at the Irish successes versus all of the different conferences since 2001.
The Irish have played 123 games since 2001. First thing to look at is their overall record in which the Irish are a combined 69-54, which equals a winning percentage of 561. Based upon that number, that equates to the Irish having 5 different coaches (6 if you count Baer’s interim gig) since 2001. During this time the Irish were a team that was barely over .500 and so they haven’t fared to well vs the other conferences. Lets take a look at the breakdown. (One thing to note, teams appear in the conference they were in when the game was played, ex: BC playing in the Big East, then switching to the ACC).
ACC – The Irish have played 14 games against teams in the ACC and have an overall record of 8-6. The Irish played .500 ball (3-3) at home, 3-2 on the road and have a 2-1 neutral record including a victory over the 21st ranked Maryland Terrapins in 2002. The Irish offense has statistically struggled against teams in the ACC only averaging 19.5 points a game, 2nd lowest out of any conferences. When the Irish actually won the game, they had an average point differential of 14.0. Against ranked ACC teams, the Irish were 2-4 with their only victories coming against the 11th ranked FSU Seminoles in 2002 and the aforementioned game with Maryland in the old Meadowlands.
Big East – The Irish have played 18 games against teams in the Big East and have amassed wins in 8 of those games. Playing in the friendly confines of ND stadium, the Irish are 6-6 but only 2-4 on the road. Statistically speaking the Irish average 25.7 points a gem and have an average win differential of 16.7. Generally the Irish play well offensively, but struggle to win the big games. Of the 18 games against the Big East, only 3 have been against ranked opponents all of which have been the Pittsburgh Panthers. ND holds a 2-1 record against ranked Pitt teams during this time.
Big Ten – ND has played 32 games, the most of any conference, against teams from the Big 10. Again, keeping with the “Irish are a mediocre team” theme in the 2000’s, the Irish are a combined 16-16. Nothing to really garner from that stat but the Irish offense put up 23.7 points against Big ten defenses but only won their games by an average of 9.6 points. Statistically the Irish were better at home, worse on the road and 0-1 against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. During this time, the Irish went 5-6 against ranked Big Ten teams, with their biggest win coming in Ann Arbor against the 3rd ranked Wolverines in 2005.
Big 12 – A big whopping 0-2 for our Irish against Big 12 opponents. The Irish lost on the road to a ranked Nebraska team in 2001, 27-10 and again lost on the road in College Station to the Aggies 24-3. Both of those games were played during the Bob Davie era and the Irish will not play another Big 12 team until this years BCS championship when they will take on Oklahoma (ok, maybe that wont happen because who knows if Oklahoma will make it to the NC this year. The Irish are scheduled to play the Sooners though in Norman, October 27, 2012).
Conference USA – This one is tough to type. The Irish have a record of 0-1 against Conference USA opponents, 2010 loss to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. We all remember Kelly’s Crusaders falling at the hands of Tulsa last year 28-27 in the wake of the Declan Sullivan tragedy. Looking at future schedules, it doesn’t look like the Irish have any scheduled games against this conference for which the Irish can exact their revenge.
Independents – The Irish are a combined 9-3 vs the indies since 2001. The Irish take on Navy annually and have played games against Army recently. The Irish are 4-2 at home and 5-1 in neutral site games. The Irish average a whopping 31.3 PPG and their average victory is 17.0. With Navy, Army and now BYU on the future schedule, the Irish will look to improve on their 9-3 record against the independent teams of college football.
Mid-American – ND has played 1 game against teams from the Mid-American conference in the last 10 years and that was last season versus Western Michigan. The Irish won that game at home 44-20. The Irish will get their next crack at a MAC opponent in 2014 with a series against Temple.
Mountain West – 8 games played, 6 victories for the Irish. 4-1 in ND stadium, and 2-1 on the road. The two losses were at BYU to start the 2004 season and the 2007 season against Air Force. Air Force remains the only Mountain West team currently slated to play the Irish over the next few years.
Pac-10 – The Irish have played 29 times against teams from the Pac-10 and are a surprising 17-12. The Irish averaged 25.4 points a game and managed to win by an average of 16 points. ND was 9-5 at home, 7-6 on the road and 1-1 in neutral site games. Those neutral games were an Insight bowl loss to Oregon State with Kent Baer at the helm and 2009’s win in the Alamo Dome against Washington State. The telling stat for the Irish against Pac-10 teams is that they are 0-10 vs ranked opponents. The Irish continue to schedule Pac-10 teams and one of them might be the catalyst for ND’s national championship next when the Irish will likely travel to Palo Alto undefeated.
SEC – Coach Kelly recently said “Notre Dame will be taken serious when they beat an SEC team.” Kelly understands the dominance that the SEC has shown over the years and realizes that if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. The Irish are 2-2 against SEC teams since 2001 with 2 wins against Tennessee, a loss to the 7th ranked Volunteers at home and the 2006 Sugar Bowl loss against LSU. 3 of the 4 games played against the SEC have been against ranked opponents. The Irish wont get their next crack at an SEC school unless they play one in a bowl game.
WAC – The Irish have played 2 games against WAC teams and have dominated. The Irish are 2-0, have averaged 42 points and have an average win differential of 31.5. The Irish opened the 2009 season with a huge win over a quality Nevada Wolf Pack team and we all remember the Christmas Eve Holiday bowl where Jimmy Clausen was lights out.
So what does this all mean? Basically not a whole lot. The Irish were mediocre during the past decade so to take anything from the conference talk would be premature. The Irish played well at home, generally scored a decent amount of points and struggled to win on the road. If you had to make an argument for joining a conference, then its clear that ND should join the WAC. ND has dominated in their two games against WAC opponents therefore they would continue to dominate. (Dominance once = Dominance 4evar)
Regardless of conference the Irish need to just win. With some tough opponents on the schedule, regardless of conference, the Irish have a daunting task ahead of them this season. Lets just hope Kelly and the Boys are up to the task.