What are the toughest games on the Notre Dame football schedule? Ranked from easiest to toughest opponents, here’s how important each of the Fighting Irish’s games are.
How will Notre Dame football fare this season? The Fighting Irish schedule isn’t all that bad considering they almost always challenge themselves with big-time games against big-name teams. Here’s a ranking of their toughest opponents, starting with the easiest.
12. No. 12 Army (in San Antonio)
Go ahead and dog Notre Dame football for whatever you want, but there’s no ripping on the program for scheduling good teams. When playing Army and its option offense in San Antonio is your easiest game, the rest of the slate is beyond respectable.
11. Sept. 10 Nevada
Again, when Nevada is your second-easiest game, the schedule is solid. The Wolf Pack need to crank up the pistol attack to give the Irish defense a hard time, especially since they’re a sandwich between the road game at Texas and the trip to Michigan State.
10. Sept. 24 Duke
The Blue Devils won 37-13 over the Fighting Irish to end the 1961 season, but they’ve lost the other three games between the two, including a 28-7 thumping in 2007. Duke is far better now, but the game is in South Bend.
9. Nov. 5 Navy (in Jacksonville)
Navy is no longer the guaranteed victory it was for so long, and with an interesting date in Jacksonville coming off the showdown against Miami, there’s more than just the Midshipmen’s option attack to deal with.
8. Oct. 1 at Syracuse
Will the Orange offense be rolling after the first month of the season? Dino Babers might not have Syracuse at a 2015 Bowling Green level, but it’ll be dangerous enough at home for Notre Dame to stay focused.
7. Nov. 19 Virginia Tech
Late in the regular season, Justin Fuente should have his Hokies rolling – at least that’s their hope. Not only is it the last home game of the season for the Fighting Irish, but it’s the only one after the October 29th game against Miami.
6. Oct. 8 at NC State
The date in Raleigh is the only true road game of the season following another true road game, coming off the trip to Syracuse the week before. Will the Wolfpack be desperate to come up with a big, splashy moment under Dave Doeren?
5. Oct. 15 Stanford
This isn’t the same Stanford team from last year, but it’s Christian McCaffrey coming to South Bend. Can this be anywhere near as terrific as last year’s Cardinal win that knocked the Irish out of the playoff discussion? That’s asking for too much, but as the last game before a week off, Notre Dame shouldn’t have any problem getting up for it.
4. Oct. 29 Miami
If Notre Dame is somehow unbeaten by this point – hardly a given with Texas, Michigan State and Stanford over the first part of the season – the hype will be off the charts after getting a week off to prepare. If Miami can beat Florida State at home and Virginia Tech on the road – again, hardly a given – it’ll be 7-0 with this by far the toughest remaining regular season game.
3. Sept. 17 Michigan State
Notre Dame handed the Spartans their only loss in the 2013 season – the last time the two teams played – as a part of a run of three straight wins in the series going back to 2010 and four of the last five. Michigan State might be the best team on the schedule, but the game is at home unlike …
2. Sept. 4 at Texas
The Longhorns were embarrassed to start last year in a 38-3 blasting in South Bend – they never really recovered. This is statement time for Charlie Strong in a Sunday night game that’ll be the biggest story in sports for a day – Notre Dame must be prepared to face one jacked up team.
1. Nov. 26 at USC
It’s one of the biggest rivalry games on the college football calendar, and this year the situation mimic that of last season. Could Notre Dame need a big win on the road against a Pac-12 team to potentially get into the playoff? It’s the first true road game for the Irish since the October 8th game at NC State, and as always, it’s going to matter.