Despite what Gary Pinkel says, Notre Dame being independent could actually be a good thing for college football. It gives the Fighting Irish the ability to schedule pretty much anyone they want anywhere, anytime. We are seeing these neutral-site games popping up more and more every year, including this coming season when the Irish travel to Fenway Park to take on Boston College on Nov. 21.
Notre Dame has enough of a national following to take its show on the road against just about anyone and be comfortable knowing that the Irish faithful will be there to support them. This opens up the possibility for some iconic matchups in some iconic venues around the country — essentially some dream matchups for everyone who loves college football. Some of these matchups already happen, but an iconic venue would catapult them to the level of "must-see TV."
Here now are the top ten neutral-site dream matchups for Notre Dame:
10. Stanford at AT&T Park (San Francisco)
One of Notre Dame's regular opponents, this game would certainly benefit by playing against the backdrop of one of the most beautiful settings in baseball. It would certainly be a hot ticket in the Bay Area.
9. Navy at Aloha Stadium (Honolulu)
I can't think of a better way to continue this rivalry than playing it miles from one of the most sacred sites in American military history — Pearl Harbor. In addition to Irish fans, it would be pretty cool to look upon a sea of uniformed military members stationed in Hawaii enjoying this game.
8. USC at The Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.)
This home-and-home rivalry would be even better played in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains at one of college football's most scenic and iconic venues.
7. Texas at the Alamodome (San Antonio)
Is there anything more "Texas" than the Alamo? The trip the Longhorns make to South Bend this season pales in comparison to the Texas-sized football festival this one would be.
6. Oklahoma at Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City)
Two blue-blood teams and their fanbases converging in the tailgate and BBQ capital of the Midwest? Yes, please. The game would likely be entertaining, but the festivities in the parking lot would be Oktoberfest-like.
5. Michigan at Wrigley Field (Chicago)
I already miss this annual rivalry. When the two programs meet again, Wrigley seems like the most logical setting. Good luck getting tickets.
4. Nebraska at Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wis.)
Two of the winningest college programs in history clashing in the NFL's Titletown would be another hot ticket. It would also likely spawn its own industry of panoramic posters memorializing the event.
3. Penn State at Yankee Stadium (New York City)
The two schools have plenty of alumni in the New York metropolitan area, not to mention the fact that the schools' colors would blend perfectly into the setting. Incidentally, Joe Paterno was born about 30 minutes away in Brooklyn.
2. Ohio State at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium (Canton, Ohio)
The small capacity of the stadium on the lawn of the Pro Football Hall of Fame would give this battle of historical juggernauts a "Friday Night Lights" feel. It would also send ticket prices through the roof — and rightfully so.
1. Alabama at Legion Field (Birmingham, Ala.)
Perhaps more so than any other game on this list, this would essentially be a road game in every sense for the Irish. You could argue that Alabama and Notre Dame are the two most important programs in the history of college football. Meeting in Birmingham in the venue that once had the words "The Football Capital of the South" on the upper deck would be a fantastic way to honor "The Old Gray Lady" and keep the iconic stadium relevant.