2014 schedule comes into focus with Rice game announced

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(I was traveling for Christmas today so we’ll get to some good Tee Shepard news, a FSU Felony update, and some interesting BK comments later tonight/tomorrow.)

It might have slid under the radar, but Rice announced an addition to their football schedule for 2014, adding Notre Dame to their slate of games. The Owls will visit South Bend in what appears to be a one-game series, on a date still to be determined.

“Notre Dame is a program that shares our core beliefs about college athletics,” Rice athletics director Rick Greenspan said. “We both believe that the pursuit of excellence in the classroom need not become secondary to the pursuit of championships in athletics. This type of scheduled is reflective of the greater overall vision for the second century of Rice Athletics.

“We are excited to add this game to the schedule in order to give our student-athletes and our fans this tremendous opportunity to experience a game day in South Bend and renew this series with the Irish,” Greenspan added.

While the 2012 schedule will grab headlines for it’s opening game in Dublin, dates with Miami in Soldier Field and a trip to Norman, Oklahoma, the evolution of the schedule has been interesting to watch with Jack Swarbrick helping to undo the 7-4-1 scheduling conundrum Kevin White instituted while atop the athletic department.

The Irish have all but dropped the seventh home game from the schedule, scheduling five away games while keeping a neutral site home game on their slate, creating a unique 6-5-1 model. Next year, that neutral site match-up will be at Soldier Field. In 2013, it’ll be at Cowboys Stadium against Arizona State. In 2014, the Irish will battle Syracuse in the Meadowlands for Big Apple supremacy.

The 2014 schedule is shaking out interestingly, with the Irish potentially softening up the front-end of their schedule. The game with Rice could be a potential fit for a home opener, with the Irish set to play Navy and Purdue, before a home date with Michigan. Not to take schools like Navy and Purdue lightly, but that’s the proper way to open a season before playing Michigan, not front-loading difficult opponents like the Irish have done in the past.

(For those worried that the schedule is turning too soft, don’t worry — 2015 and 2016 have the Irish alternating between Texas and Michigan in the first two weeks of the season.)

The Irish also welcome opponents Northwestern and Arizona State in 2014, and could potentially round out their schedule with a game against BYU, who Notre Dame agreed to play four times between 2014 and 2020.

The Rice game won’t steal headlines or get a round of applause from traditionalists, but finding an opponent that’ll travel to you without being assured a return game isn’t the easiest of tasks.