Brian Kelly and his staff are preaching one game at a time, one week at a time to the Notre Dame players this week to make sure they don’t get caught looking ahead coming off last weekend’s huge victory over Oklahoma. One of the benefits of being fan, however, is we can look ahead, project future games, and let ourselves get excited about the now very real possibility of Notre Dame traveling to Miami in January for more than just little fun in sun to escape the South Bend winter.
We’ll start taking a look each week at the other title contenders standing in Notre Dame’s path to Miami as well as how Notre Dame opponents are doing in terms of helping the Irish’s strength of schedule. This week we’ll also take a look at where each team stands heading overall at this point in the season.
Other Title Contenders
When looking at Notre Dame’s national championship hopes, we only need to look at the remaining unbeatens standing in Notre Dame’s way since it is too late in the season for the Irish to survive a hiccup and still have a chance at the title. That means there are three teams Notre Dame fans need to be watching closely over the final month of the season.
Alabama Crimson Tide
- Next Game: @ #5 LSU (11/3, 8:00 CBS)
- Most Likely to Lose: @ LSU
- Other Games: vs. #16 Texas A&M (11/10), vs. Western Carolina (11/17), vs. Auburn (11/24)
If Alabama gets past LSU this weekend in Baton Rouge, they have clear sailing until the SEC Championship game where they would most likely take on Georgia after the Bulldogs win over Florida this past weekend. Georgia is a very solid team but they don’t have the offense to put up enough points on Alabama so, if the Crimson Tide beat LSU this weekend, they are about the safest bet of the four unbeaten teams to reach Miami. Getting passed LSU in Baton Rouge is a lot easier said than done, however, as Alabama lost to LSU in the regular season last year before shutting them out in last year’s title game. Geaux Tigers!
Kansas State Wildcats
- Next Game: vs. #24 Oklahoma State (11/3, 8:00 ABC)
- Most Likely to Lose: vs. Oklahoma State
- Other Games: @ TCU (11/10), @ Baylor (11/17), vs. #23 Texas (12/1)
Notre Dame’s best chances of Kansas State losing come this weekend when the Wildcats will face their third straight ranked opponent in as many weeks when Oklahoma State travels to Manhattan, Kansas for a prime time matchup on ABC. Oklahoma State is a pretty good football team and certainly could upset the Wildcats since it is tough to get a football team up to play three ranked opponents in a row. Bill Synder is a hell of a coach, but that is a tall order for any head coach. If Kansas State gets passed Oklahoma State, their last remaining test comes on December 1 when they host Texas. It is hard to imagine Notre Dame jumping KSU in the standings without them losing unless Notre Dame were to completely blow out USC since the Wildcats have wins over then #6 Oklahoma (albeit in much less impressive fashion than Notre Dame), then #13 West Virginia and #14 Texas Tech – both in blowout fashion.
- Next Game: @ #17 USC (11/3, 7:00 FOX)
- Most Likely to Lose: @ USC
- Other Games: @ Cal (11/10), vs. #14 Stanford (11/17), @ #11 Oregon State (11/24)
Oregon still has to face three ranked teams in their final four remaining games – @ #17 USC, vs. #14 Stanford, and @#11 Oregon State – but that schedule is somewhat deceiving. USC just lost to Arizona, Stanford struggled against Washington State, and Oregon State hasn’t beaten the Ducks since 2007. Like the other unbeatens fighting with Notre Dame for a berth in the title game, Oregon’s most likely loss could come this weekend when they travel to USC. The Trojans did just get upset by Arizona, but they are the kind of team that has the talent to play with anyone – when they want to play. In any given year it is always tough for a Notre Dame fan to cheer for USC, but with Lane Kiffin in charge it has become monumentally tougher to do so. Luckily Oregon does have two other tough games although I can’t see Stanford hanging with Oregon very long, but you never know.
Notre Dame Opponents – Already Played
- Current Record: 5-3
- Last Game: Beat East Carolina 56-28
- Next Game: vs. Florida Atlantic – 3:30 11/3
Navy has won four straight games and should have a good chance to win out this season with Florida Atlantic, @ Troy, vs. Texas State, and vs. Army. Navy should be able to win all four games which would put them at 9-3 for the season giving a nice boost to Notre Dame’s strength of schedule since all four opponents are D1 foes.
- Current Record: 3-5
- Last Game: Lost to Minnesota 28-44
- Next Game: vs. Penn State – 3:30 11/3 (ESPN U)
Purdue is having a rough season and Danny Hope’s seat might be about ready to completely burn by the end of the season. After a 3-1 start, Purdue has lost four straight and only their overtime loss to Ohio State was even close. The best Notre Dame fans can probably hope for here is a 2-2 finish for the Boilermakers which won’t do the strength of schedule rating too many favors.
Michigan State Spartans
- Current Record: 5-4
- Last Game: Beat #25 Wisconsin 16-13 OT
- Next Game: vs. #20 Nebraska
Michigan State halted a two game skid with an overtime win over Wisconsin this weekend. The Spartans could have done Notre Dame a lot of good by winning more of their close games this season. Michigan State has lost three of their last five games by a total of just 6 points including a double overtime loss to Iowa. Should the Spartans pull out a win over #20 Nebraska this weekend though, they could set themselves up nicely for a 8-4 finish to the season that would help Notre Dame’s SOS down the stretch.
- Current Record: 5-3
- Last Game: Lost to Nebraska 9-23
- Next Game: @ Minnesota – 12:00 11/3 (Big Ten Network)
Michigan had not lost since leaving South Bend on the short end of the scoreboard in September before getting tripped up by Nebraska this past weekend after Denard Robinson was knocked out of the game. Without Robinson, Michigan couldn’t move the ball and was held scoreless in the second half. If Robinson misses any significant time, the Wolverines could be in serious trouble the rest of the year – and so can Notre Dame’s SOS. The win over Michigan was looking pretty good in the eyes of voters and the computers after they rattled off four wins in a row and looked poised to challenge for a 10 win season again this year. Had Michigan won out, that would have given Notre Dame a quality win over a team ranked in the 10-15 range. Robinson’s injury throws a major wrench in those plans though and while normally Notre Dame fans would revel in such troubles for Michigan, this season those troubles could hurt Notre Dame’s title chances.
- Current Record: 4-4
- Last Game: Lost to #14 Florida State 20-33
- Next Game: vs. Virginia Tech – 7:30 11/1 (ESPN – Thursday night)
The Hurricanes have been in a bit of a free fall since geting blown out by Notre Dame in the Windy City. Miami fell to North Carolina the next week and then couldn’t hang with Florida State the following weekend before getting this past Saturday off. Next up for Al Golden’s team is a Thursday night match with Virginia Tech that will likely define their season. A win and Miami could salvage their season and close strong with UVA, South Florida, and Duke remaining. A loss, however, would give them three L’s in a row and Golden could be in danger of losing his team. Even a 3-1 finish to the season, though would benefit the Irish.
- Current Record: 6-2
- Last Game: Beat Washington State 24-17
- Next Game: @ Colorado – 2:00 11/3 (FX)
The Cardinal have won both of their games since losing to Notre Dame in overtime earlier this month albeit in rather unimpressive fashion. Stanford squeaked out a 7 point win over lowly Washington State last weekend to improve to 6-2 on the season and should be able to walk over Colorado this Saturday to reach 7-2, but they end the season by hosting Oregon State and traveling to Oregon and then UCLA. Best case scenario here based on recent results for Stanford looks like a 2-2 finish for a 8-4 final record.
- Current Record: 5-4
- Last Game: Beat Georgia Tech 41-17
- Next Game: vs. Idaho – 10:15 11/10 (ESPN U)
BYU made short work of Georgia Tech last weekend and has an easy slate of remaining games which should help out Notre Dame SOS wise. BYU has this weekend off, but their final three games are vs. Idaho, @ San Jose State, and @ New Mexico. All three are very winnable games for the Cougars which would push their final record to 8-4 on the season and make Notre Dame’s win look pretty solid in the eyes of the computers at least.
After ruining Oklahoma’s national championship hopes, Notre Dame now has to hope for the Sooners to win out in order to help out their own title chances. Oklahoma has two pretty easy games coming up with a trip to Iowa State and a home game against Baylor the next two weekends, but after that the Sooners close with a trip to #21 West Virginia before hosting Oklahoma State and then closing the season out at TCU. West Virginia has had its door’s blown off by its last two foes though so that should be a winnable game for Oklahoma despite it being on the road. Worst case scenario here is probably a split of the WVU and OK St games with wins in its other three games for a final record of 9-3.
Future Notre Dame Opponents
- Current Record: 4-4
- Last Game: Beat Temple 47-17
- Next Game: @ #3 Notre Dame
Pitt had a rough start to the season, but has won two straight against Buffalo and Temple – their most impressive win of the season. The Panthers shouldn’t pose much of a threat to Notre Dame assuming the Irish remain focused and do not overlook the Panthers, but they have winnable games after they leave South Bend against UConn, Rutgers, and South Florida. Best case scenario here would be to hope for Pitt to split their remaining games and finish up their season 6-6. Such a record won’t help Notre Dame’s SOS much, but it wouldn’t hurt much either.
Boston College Eagles
- Current Record: 2-6
- Last Game: Beat Maryland 20-17
- Next Game: @ Wake Forest (11/3 – 3:30 – ESPN 3)
Boston College halted a five game losing streak and picked up their second win of the season this past weekend against Maryland. There’s no way around this one hurting Notre Dame’s SOS though. The Eagles play Wake Forest this weekend so that game negates itself in terms of SOS since both are Irish opponents. After Wake, BC closes the year with Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, and NC Sate meaning there is a very good chance they will finish the season with at most 3 wins.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
- Current Record: 4-4
- Last Game: Lost to Clemson 13-44
- Next Game: vs. Boston College (11/3, 3:30 ESPN 3)
The Demon Deacons should win this weekend against Boston College, but have to face NC State and Notre Dame over their final three games along with Vandy. BC and Vandy should be wins for Wake, but Notre Dame and NC State are looking like losses which would put their final record at 6-6 on the season. Should Wake be able to pull an upset over NC State though, a final record of 7-5 would be pretty solid in helping Notre Dame’s SOS.
Southern Cal Trojans
- Current Record: 6-2
- Last Game: Lost to Arizona 36-39
- Next Game: vs. #4 Oregon (11/3, 7:00 FOX)
As previously mentioned, Notre Dame fans need to be USC fans this weekend, or at the very least be able to live with seeing the Trojans win at home over Oregon because it would greatly enhance the Irish’s title chances. USC is coming off a bad loss to Arizona in which they blew a late lead, but they certainly have the firepower to win a shootout with Oregon. After the Ducks, USC has two very winnable games against Arizona State and UCLA meaning the Trojans should be at least 8-3 heading into the season finale against the Irish.