With the early season loss to Michigan, the national title hopes for Notre Dame took a serious beating. The Irish’s title hopes aren’t dead, but with a loss this early in the season, they are on life support. The only advantage to the early season loss is that in the current landscape of rankings and the BCS, it is much easier to overcome an early season loss than one suffered late in the year. Voters tend to remember how teams close out a season more so than how they start a season.
While the loss to Michigan exposed some major concerns for the Irish, they can still run the table and enter the USC game with just one loss. Should they do that, they will be facing a potentially unbeaten USC team and could make a very big statement with a win in Los Angeles.
For the Irish to reach the BCS title game with a loss however, they will need some serious help so here is a look at the tough games all of the teams currently ranked ahead of or directly below the Irish will face between now and the end of the season.
#1 Ohio State (3-0)
- 9/24 vs. #24 Penn State – Lions were beat on by the Irish, but if Anthony Morelli hits a couple deep passes, they could make a game of it.
- 9/30 at #14 Iowa – The Hawkeyes are undefeated and in the Top15 right now. They are a tough out at home and should have last year’s 31-6 loss in Columbus on their minds.
- 10/14 at Michigan State – The Spartans are one of the most unpredictable teams in college football. They can look like a contender on any given Saturday and at the same time they can look average at best.
- 11/18 vs. #6 Michigan – There was a major effort put forth this summer by Michigan to beat their two rivals – Notre Dame and Ohio State – this year. We all saw how the first go around in their rivalry games went.
#2 Auburn (3-0)
- 10/14 vs. #5 Florida – The Gators are always tough in the Swamp and this year they also happen to be ranked in the top 5.
- 11/11 vs. #9 Georgia – The Bulldogs have looked very impressive albeit against pushovers thus far.
- 11/18 at Alabama – This one is usually a war no matter what the teams are ranked.
- SEC Championship – Auburn potentially has the SEC Championship against most likely Florida or Georgia.
#3 USC (2-0)
- 10/14 vs. #22 Arizona State – The Sun Devils gave USC all they could handle last year before blowing it late. This year they get the Trojans at home.
- 11//11 vs. #13 Oregon – The Ducks are a dangerous team. Officiating aside, they came back against Oklahoma and have a potent offense.
- 11/18 vs. #21 Cal – Cal has rebounded a bit since their embarrassing loss to open the season against Tennessee. They have talent, but do they have a defense to slow down USC?
- 11/25 vs. #12 Notre Dame – No explanation needed, GO IRISH.
- 12/02 at UCLA – Rivalry games are hard to predict even though USC ran all over the Bruins last year.
#4 West Virginia (3-0)
- 11/02 at #8 Louisville – This is the most likely game the Mountaineers could lose. Their schedule is weak and their offense, led by star running back Steve Slaton, can put points on anyone. If Brian Brohm is back for this game, it will be a battle.
- 11/16 at Pittsburgh – The Backyard Brawl is in Pittsburgh giving the Panthers an edge, but their loss last week to Michigan State exposed some defensive weakness. Best hope for Pitt is some nasty weather because they might not be able to slow the Mountaineer offense enough to be in position to win.
- 12/02 vs. Rutgers – The Scarlet Knights are an up and coming program and this could be a huge statement game for them.
#5 Florida (3-0)
- 10/07 vs. #10 LSU – The Tigers just lost a battle with Auburn and definitely have the talent to beat the Gators.
- 10/14 at #2 Auburn – It will be tough to go into Auburn and come out with win over the Tigers, but Florida did just go into Tennessee and leave with a win.
- 10/28 vs. #9 Georgia – They benefit from having the game at home, but it will still be a tough match.
- 11/11 vs. South Carolina – The Gamecocks haven’t looked impressive at all, but the whole Spurrier angle makes this one a potential upset special.
- 11/25 at #18 Florida State – Florida State’s offense looks weak no running game, but anything can happen when these two meet.
#6 Michigan (3-0)
- 10/07 vs. Michigan State – Rivalry game and as I said earlier, all depends on what Michigan State team shows up.
- 10/14 at #24 Penn State – Michigan won the last second thriller a year ago giving Penn State its only loss – think the Lions remember?
- 10/21vs. #14 Iowa – They get Iowa at home, but it’s at the end of the stretch where they play rival Michigan State and then travel to Happy Valley before hosting the Hawkeyes in back to back to back weeks.
- 11/18 at #1 Ohio State – Revenge will be on their minds, but winning in Columbus is never easy.
#7 Texas (2-1)
- 10/07 at #17 Oklahoma – Adrian Peterson will need a huge game here for the Sooners.
- 10/21 at #23 Nebraska – Nebraska didn’t look special against USC, but the Longhorns weren’t exactly impressive against the Buckeyes two weeks ago either.
- 11/24 vs. Texas A&M – Another rivalry game.
- BIG XII Championship – Their potential opponent here probably won’t be too strong, but upsets have been known to happen in the Big XII Championship game.
#8 Louisville (3-0)
- 11/02 vs. #4 West Virginia – Already discussed. If Brohm is healthy, they have a chance.
- 11/09 at Rutgers – As I said earlier, Rutgers will be looking for a statement game this year.
- 11/25 at Pittsburgh – The weather in November in Pittsburgh could make this one close.
#9 Georgia (3-0)
- 10/07 vs. #15 Tennessee – The Vols have looked very sharp this year despite the loss this past weekend to Florida.
- 10/28 at #5 Florida – The Swamp is a tough place to play and this one should be a dandy.
- 11/11 at #2 Auburn – Already discussed.
- 11/25 vs. Georgia Tech – Rivalry game.
- SEC Championship Game – If they reach the SEC Title Game they will likely face Auburn, Alabama, or LSU.
#10 LSU (2-1)
- 10/07 at. #5 Florida – Already discussed.
- 10/21 vs. Fresno State – Fresno lost to Washington last week, but they have been known to knock off major conference teams on the road.
- 11/04 at #15 Tennessee – A trip to Knoxville in November is never easy.
#11 Virginia Tech (3-0)
- 9/30 vs. Georgia Tech – We know Tech has a defense, can their offense score enough to win?
- 10/12 at. #20 Boston College – The Eagles hung on for dear life this weekend against BYU, but we all know Boston College knack for upsets (damn Glen Foley).
- 10/26 vs. #19 Clemson – They get Clemson at home, but the heat could be on Terry Bowden to produce a big win by this point in the season.
- 11/04 at Miami – The U is unranked for the first time since 1999, but they still have enough raw talent on that team to be dangerous even if Larry Coker is coaching.
- 11/25 vs. Virginia – Rivalry game.
#13 Oregon (3-0)
- 9/30 at #22 Arizona State – This one could be a classic Pac 10 shootout.
- 10/07 at #21 Cal – Again, this could be a shootout with the two offenses that will be involved.
- 10/14 vs. UCLA – The Bruins aren’t ranked, but their offense could be clicking enough at this point to make it interesting.
- 11/11 at #3 USC – Already discussed.
- 11/25 at Oregon State – Rivalry game.
#14 Iowa (3-0)
- 9/30 vs. #1 Ohio State – Can the Hawkeyes take down the top ranked Buckeyes? They get them at home and have a relatively light Big 10 schedule other than OSU and Michigan.
- 10/21 at #6 Michigan – Already discussed.
#15 Tennessee (2-1)
- 10/07 at #9 Georgia – Already discussed.
- 11/04 vs. #10 LSU – Already discussed.
- SEC Championship Game – Potentially against Auburn, Alabama, or LSU.
good analysis. Unfortunately, I think Michigan St. will give the Irish more trouble than Michigan (at least on offense). ND’s offense will need to be clicking on all cylinders b/c the team who scores the most, will take the megaphone. In other words, a repeat of last year’s game.
The popular opinion from a lot of Irish fans since the Michigan debacle, has been to move Tom Z. to linebacker & either Ferrine or Lambert to safety to improve coverage. Probably won’t happen unless something drastic occurs…like another blowout. What are your thoughts?