It’s a glorious time; college football is right around the corner. The Badgers are starting this season ranked #9 in the AP Poll and they have some lofty expectations. The anticipation for this season in Wisconsin is palpable, but news broke on August 13th that has Badger fans looking a little farther down the road. Badger fans heard the news that Wisconsin is set for a series against Notre Dame in 2020 and 2021. The first game is taking place at Lambeau Field (2020), and the second at Soldier Field (2021). These two teams are going head to head for the first time since 1964 and the matchup is sure to be historic.
Wisconsin isn’t afraid of anybody and that’s clear. In the playoff era it’s more important than ever to have a respectable schedule and the Badgers do their best to make sure they are at the top of Strength of Schedule standings. After having to back out of a home and home with Washington that would have taken place in 2018 and 2021, they needed a top tier opponent after the LSU and Alabama games. Notre Dame was the obvious choice. For years the independent school has been a target for Wisconsin, and now it’s a reality.
“Wisconsin is a better football program than Notre Dame” this quote from Colin Cowherd generated some buzz between fans of both schools. The video and his explanation can be found here.
While I am writing this as a Wisconsin fan, I do my best to check my bias at the door before I begin writing. Colin Cowherd is a controversial radio host who I find myself disagreeing with way more often than not. That said, he is absolutely correct. Is Wisconsin the better program all-time? Of course not. Over the last 20 years? How can it be denied? If you’re a Notre Dame fan that tries to use the 12-0 season and National Championship Game appearance as a reason to say otherwise, we all remember how that final game went. This is not meant to be disrespectful, it’s just facts and Cowherd lays them out expertly.
The location of these games has also been an interesting talking point among fans and analysts. Lambeau Field is so historic that they can host whatever they want and nobody will bat an eye, but the problem comes in when the second game is played at Soldier Field. When it comes to how different each stadium is, this article from the USA Today says it all. USA Today ranks Lambeau Field as the best stadium in the NFL, and Soldier Field as the 31st stadium. They are as far apart as can be on this ranking and in quality as well. Why was the decision made to hold such a prestigious game there? Obviously location is the answer, but what a sacrifice to make. I don’t speak for every fan, but I think a lot of Wisconsin Badgers players and the Badgers fans who travel would have preferred to go to Notre Dame’s own backyard in South Bend than to go to Soldier Field. Another question arises, should this have just been a true home and home in Madison and South Bend? Tom Oates makes some terrific points in this article about why these NFL stadium games come at a price.
Games in NFL stadiums are a really big deal for the schools, coaches, fans, players, and especially the recruits in high-school but the true college atmosphere is hard to beat and it makes everything easier for fans and students. Neither option is wrong, but it’s an interesting decision for Athletic Directors and schools to make.
While the game itself is impossible to predict this far out, it is reassuring to know the future of Wisconsin is in good hands with Paul Chryst. We have exciting freshman this year who are going to be the seniors when that game kicks off in 2020, and we have solid recruits coming soon that will surely bring everything Notre Dame can handle. On the other side, Notre Dame has had some disappointing years, but they will always have great recruiting classes no matter what. Badger fans shouldn’t anticipate a Notre Dame team coming off of a 4-8 season; they should expect a team that has finally found its footing.
All eyes are going to be on this game, and it’s going to mean a lot to a lot of people in the mid-west. It’s felt like this is something that should have started years ago, but it’s better late than never, right? No disrespect to LSU or Alabama, they are two of the best program’s in the country but this game feels like it has the makings of something bigger to the fans. At least it should. Scheduling is difficult and you can’t just throw on whoever you would like, but it would be special if this could become a consistent thing. If it is the only two times these teams meet in the foreseeable future, be sure to soak it all in. This is what college football is all about.