The USA Today Pre-Season Coaches Poll was released on Thursday with Notre Dame sitting at 17th after finishing the 2013 season ranked 24th following their 9-4 campaign.
A year ago Notre Dame started the season off ranked 11th in Coaches Poll following their run to the 2012 National Championship Game but fell completely out of the top 25 by the first week of October. The Irish should be able to avoid a similar fate this year with the only questionable game before October coming in week two when Notre Dame hosts Michigan for the final game currently scheduled between the two long standing rivals.
Speaking of Michigan, the Wolverines find themselves outside of the pre-season top 25 in year three of the Brady Hoke era. That means Notre Dame will potentially make it out of September without facing a ranked opponent.
Things will more than heat up from there.
While Michigan is not ranked to start the season, the Notre Dame schedule is littered with opponents who are. Defending national champion Florida State is Notre Dame’s highest ranked opponent in 2014 as they open their title defense in the top spot in the poll.
Florida State will be the first game in a brutal three game stretch that currently has Notre Dame scheduled to face three straight ranked opponents in consecutive weekends. Before taking a trip to Tallahassee, Notre Dame will host the 11th ranked Stanford Cardinal and #23 ranked Tar Heels of North Carolina in back to back weekends.
November will see the Irish square off against two more ranked opponents – both on the road. On November 18th the Irish will travel to Tempe, Arizona for a showdown with the 18th ranked Sun Devils before closing the season out in the Coliseum against the 15th ranked Trojans of USC.
That makes five different opponents in the pre-season top 25 for Notre Dame. Another three opponents – Michigan, Northwestern, and Louisville – are also listed in the others receiving votes section meaning Notre Dame has at least 8 top 25 caliber teams on the 2014 season.