2011 schedule begins paradigm shift for Irish

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Both Air Force and Wake Forest confirmed this weekend that they’d be playing Notre Dame in 2011, effectively finalizing the schedule for next season. And while its been hinted at by both Brian Kelly and Jack Swarbrick, we can now see with great certainty that the 7-4-1 scheduling model of former athletic director Kevin White is gone.

While Notre Dame stays silent on all scheduling until the slate is complete, Air Force athletic director Hans Mueh told the Colorado Springs Gazette that the Falcons would visit South Bend on October 8 next year, with the Irish traveling to Air Force in 2013. The Irish haven’t played Air Force since 2007.

“This means a lot to us,” Mueh told the Gazette. “They recognize the great relationship we’ve had through the years.”

Meanwhile, Wake Forest confirmed a long-discussed series with the Irish, with athletic director Ron Wellman announcing that Notre Dame will head to Winston-Salem to take on the Demon Deacons on November 5th. Wake is already on the Irish home slate for 2012, but the Deacons will play the return game of the two-game set in November, 2015.

“This is an excellent opportunity for our football team to compete against one of the most storied football programs in the nation,” Wellman said in a statement.

Here’s the Irish 2011 schedule, with only Boston College still to be determined:

3-Sep	H	USF
10-Sep	A	Michigan
17-Sep	H	Michigan State
24-Sep	A	Pittsburgh
1-Oct	A	Purdue
8-Oct	H	Air Force
15-Oct
22-Oct	H	Southern Cal
29-Oct	H	Navy
5-Nov	A	Wake Forest
12-Nov	N	Maryland
19-Nov
26-Nov	A	Stanford
TBD	H	Boston College

For those of you scoring at home, that’s six home games, five away games, and one neutral site game at Fed Ex Field against Maryland. Just like this season, the Irish play six legit games to open the year, with little margin for error in the opening six weeks, and USC waiting after an off-week. (A slight upgrade from Western Michigan on the 2010 schedule…)

While the home stretch seems a little bit more manageable with Navy, Wake Forest, Maryland, most likely BC, and Stanford, Kelly will have to get used to a difficult opening quarter of the season, as the next few years have the Irish facing top-flight opponents from the get-go.