Per Phil Steele, Notre Dame’s schedule is rated #1 in difficulty in preseason SOS ratings. To put the Athlon Preseason Rankings of our opponents in context, the Irish rank #20. Read more here.
Athlon Preseason Rank: #65, Last Year’s Record: 5-7, Last Years Result: W 56-14. Navy should not be much of a test for the Irish, they lost a lot of starters off of a bad team last year at a program where it is difficult to rebuild quickly. Prediction: WIN
Athlon Preseason Rank: #53, Last Year’s Record: 7-6, Last Years Result: W 38-10. Sixteenth-year Senior QB Robert Marve is finally healthy and is one of several options at QB, but the bad news for Purdue is that they are severely depleted at OL. On Defense they should be pretty good, for Purdue. I expect the Irish to take advantage of a weak Purdue OL and dominate the Boilermakers. Prediction: WIN
Athlon Preseason Rank: #18, Last Year’s Record: 11-3, Last Year’s Result: W 31-13. MSU lost 6 players who were drafted to the NFL including QB Kirk Cousins and WR BJ Cunningham. Their offensive line and returning lead rusher LeVeon Bell should take some of the pressure off of a depleted passing attack. They return 8 starters to a defense that was ranked 6th in Total Defense last year and should be pretty good. Prediction: TOSS-UP
Athlon Preseason Rank: #7, Last Year’s Record: 11-2, Last Year’s Result: L 35-31. The offense returns Denard Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint (DUI not expected to be an issue) so the run game should be pretty good. They lack proven receivers, but not that it matters since Robinson (Bob Assmussen comparison to RG3 aside) is not known for his passing ability. On defense, their front seven is loaded with question marks. The Irish should be able to run the ball, but will they be able to keep up in a shoot-out and stop Robinson in the 4th quarter? Prediction: TOSS-UP
Athlon Preseason Rank: #48, Last Year’s Record: 6-6. Last year’s disappointing team lost a lot of talent and experience across the board for a variety of reasons. They did have the #10 recruiting class last year, which bodes well for the future, but they are expected to struggle to do much better than 6-6 this year. Prediction: WIN
Athlon Preseason Rank: #21, Last Year’s Record: 11-2, Last Year’s Result: 28-14. The Cardinal suffered severe losses on offense in QB Andrew Luck, most of it’s receivers and Tight Ends and two All American OL. RB Stepfan Taylor returns and there is a lot of hype surrounding Freshman RB Barry Sanders Jr., but the Cardinal will struggle to replace the offensive production of the passing game. On defense they return 8 starters and should be pretty solid. Prediction: TOSS-UP
Athlon Preseason Rank: #39, Last Year’s Record: 10-3. BYU is expected to have a dynamic playmaker at QB in transfer Riley Nelson and return Cody Hoffman at WR who caught 61 passes for 943 yards and 10 TD in his sophomore season. Their offensive line is considered a strength, but they struggled to run the ball against better competition last year. Their defense ended the season ranked 13th in total defense last year and is expected to be as good or better. On paper, BYU looks like a pretty solid team if you disregard the weak schedule that they play. I don’t expect a blowout, but expect the Irish to emerge victorious. Prediction: WIN
Athlon Preseason Rank: #5, Last Year’s Record: 10-3. Oklahoma is a legitimate top 5 team and is talented across the board. I am not sure our defensive secondary will fair too well against Landry Jones and I am not sure our offense will be able to score enough to win against their defense. Prediction: LOSS
Athlon Preseason Rank: #45, Last Year’s Record: 6-7, Last Year’s Result: W 15-12. Last year’s win over Pitt was one of the more painful to watch victories in recent memory, two Tommy Rees turnovers and 85 yards of penalties were lowlights. Pitt is on their 4th head coach in 3 seasons and returns QB Tino Sunseri who had 10 TD and 11 INT last year while being sacked 60 times. RB Ray Graham is a talented back but is coming off of ACL surgery. The defense returns 5 starters and is switching back to a 4-3. (we all remember how much fun that is) I expect the Irish to dominate Pitt this year, if for no other reason than to erase last year’s near debacle. Prediction: WIN
Athlon Preseason Rank: #86, Last Year’s Record: 4-8, Last Year’s Result: W 16-14. Fredo returns four out of five starters on the OL, but lacks talent at the skill positions especially with the dismissal of Montel Harris their all-time leading rusher. The only real bright spot on Defense last year was Luke Kuechly who left early for the NFL draft. BC should be the easiest game on the schedule and I can’t imagine losing to them this year. Prediction: WIN
Athlon Preseason Rank: #57, Last Year’s Record: 6-7, Last Year’s Result: W 24-17. Wake returns a QB and RB but not much else on offense. On defense, they are solid except for DL. I expect the Irish to be able to run the ball at will and dominate the LOS on both sides of the ball. Prediction: WIN
Athlon Preseason Rank: #1, Last Year’s Record: 10-2, Last Year’s Result: L 31-17. USC has tremendous talent across the board, but lacks depth especially on the OL and DL. Given their depth issues, it is a cause for optimism that we play them at the end of the year. Honestly, I am scared to death of Matt Barkley, Marquise Lee and Robert Woods against our secondary. It will take a lot of Trojan misfortune and Irish fortune for a win here. Prediction: LOSS
Against a brutal schedule and with major question marks at QB and CB, the Irish should nominally be an 8-4 or 9-3 team. Injuries, turnovers, penalties and bad breaks for the Irish or their opponents could tip the scales towards 6-6 or 12-0.