2013 Schedule Breakdown – Part I

George Atkinson III
Nov 03, 2012; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame running back George Atkinson III rushes the ball against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the first half at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

After an undefeated season and a BCS championship game appearance, the Fighting Irish will return to the field on August 31 as they take on Temple in South Bend. While the 2013 schedule has another familiar feel to it, the Irish do add Temple, Air Force and Arizona St. to the schedule, in lieu of Miami, Wake Forest and Boston College. Although it’s still early we wanted to break down all 12 games and rank them in difficulty. Do the Irish have a legitimate chance at going undefeated again? While we believe they do, it will take an improved offense, a focus on special teams(finally) and of course, the luck of the Irish

12 – Temple

After a 4-7 2012 campaign, the Owls once again struggled on defense allowing almost 29 points a game, and that includes a weak Big East schedule. When Connecticut and Villanova are your best wins of the season, your program still has a ways to go.  Temple was ranked 90th on defense and allowed a average of 437 yards per game to their opponents, but the offense was actually worse overall ranking 122nd out of 124 FBS schools overall.

While first year head coach Matt Rhule did what he could in recruiting, it’s always difficult during a transition period as he took over for former coach Steve Addazio (left for Boston College) in mid-December. The owls ended up with the 84th ranked class, but at least were able to address a few needs on the defensive side of the ball.

Prediction – Irish victory

11 – Purdue

While some may be surprised to see Purdue so low, they shouldn’t be. New coach Darrell Hazzell has quite the task on hand to return Purdue to even mediocrity.  The Boilermakers finished 2012 with 6-7 record but were demolished in the Cotton Bowl by Oklahoma St. 58-7.

Purdue lost their top two quarterbacks in Marve and Terbush, and also lost their best defender in Kawann Short. There wasn’t a lot to be excited about anyways for a team the was extremely average on offense (55th ranked) and a defense that struggled against a Big 10 conference schedule that wasn’t exactly full of offensive juggernauts, and that’s before the before mentioned departures. While Hazzell may be able to instill some discipline into a squad that is severely lacking it, 2013 will not be a kind year to Boilermaker fans.

Prediction – Irish victory

10 – Air Force

We had thoughts of putting Air Force up a few notches, but when you have to replace 9 starters of offense, it can make things very difficult. The Falcons will have a decent secondary as they return three starters, but that is about the only sure thing at this point. Their defense allowed 48 touchdowns last year, and gave up almost 410 yards a game and is considered a bigger question mark this year, than last. This is the same defense that also only recorded 8 sacks and had 8 fumble recoveries in 2012

Another huge problem is the turnover battle, which Air Force never won. They ranked 106th in the nation in turnover margin, and we are not sure how much better they can be this year. On offense they have to replace one of the few consistent pieces in quarterback Connor Dietz, and his likely replacement, Kale Pearson only completed 12 passes, no touchdowns, 4 interceptions, and rushed for only 49 yards with 2.0 yards per carry average.

Prediction – Irish victory

9 – Pittsburgh

A team that went 6-7 last year in a weaker conference, has lost their top quarterback in Tino Sunseri, and their top running back in Ray Graham, whose combined yardage of almost 4300 yards, and 32 touchdowns will be severely
missed this year. The Panthers will look to Trey Anderson and possible newcomer Tom Savage to step in behind center for the void left by Sunseri. The struggles on the offensive line look to return, although they should see some light improvement.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers will look to defensive tackle Aaron Donald to be a leader this year, with the exit of defensive end Shayne Hale.  Donald had 18.5 tackles for losses in 2012, and was one of the few bright spots.  Although the Panther defense ranked 23rd overall, it is a bit misleading. It’s true the Panthers only allowed just over 21 points a game last year, but against the likes of Lousiville, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, and Ole Miss, they gave up an average of almost 37 points a game. It will help if the Panthers can keep their linebacking core together, as the trio of Shane Gordon, Dan Mason and Todd Thomas missed a combined 11 games last season.

Prediction – Irish victory

8 – Navy

It was a rough beginning for the Midshipmen early on in the 2012 season, as they lost to Notre Dame and Penn State by a combined total of 84-17. They struggled early on, but coach Niumatalolo found a way to salvage the season, as they actually won 8 out of their last 10 games including wins over Indiana and Air Force. The 1st year quarterback Keenan Reynolds saw action in all 13 games, and started the last 8, and will be key to the any success Navy has this year. The offense will also be dealing with the loss the entire left side of their line with the graduations of left tackle Ryan Paulson and guard Josh Cabral.

The loss of their leading rusher in Gee Gee Greene, will hurt quite a bit as he was a true playmaker, but they still have Noah Copeland in the backfield, who ran for over 700 yards and 5 touchdowns. Once again though, it should come down to  what the Midshipmen can do on defense, if they plan to be bowl eligible again. The Midshipmen defense was ranked 71st in the nation overall, and allowed over 400 yards a game. The exit of leading tacklers Matt Warick(LB) and Tra’ves Bush(S) will not help matters, but as always with any service academy, it is truly “next man in.”

Prediction – Irish victory

7 – Michigan State

We truly appreciate what coach Narduzzi’s defense accomplished in 2012, and it has a chance to be even better in 2013. The Spartans return star linebacker Max Bullough, who is simply the heart and soul of a defense who ranked 4th overall nationally. They held opponents to 16.3 points per game, under 275 yards per game, and allowed only 20 touchdowns all year. They have added some nice pieces through recruiting on the defensive side of the ball also, in Shane Jones(4*LB) and Jon Reschke(4*LB).

So that’s the good, now onto the bad. To call the Spartan’s offense inept in 2012, is a disservice to the word inept. Here is a stat line that will make any Michigan State fan cringe, their offense ranked 86th in passing yards, 77th in rushing yards, and 110th in points per game. This was before their star running back Le’Veon Bell and stud tight-end Dion Sims both left for the NFL.  There is a quarterback battle between Connor Cook and Andrew Maxwell, to see who gets to be booed off the field come this fall, and they didn’t help themselves a ton in their 2013 recruiting
class(40th ranked). It is a well known fact that coach Dantonio likes to “system” recruit, and he has also done very well in getting the most talent out of the kids in East Lansing, but coaching can only do so much.

Prediction – Irish victory

So that is the first half of the schedule based off of difficulty, and we will breakdown what we consider the 6 toughest opponents the Irish will face in 2013 in our second part. These of course are just opinions, and things can drastically
change over the next 4 months, and probably will.

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  1. Ned 5 years ago

    Anyone know where we can find a 2013 roster on this site?

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    1. Ned 5 years ago

      Typed “roster,” but meant schedule. Looking for the 2013 schedule.

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      1. Bluengold34 5 years ago
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  2. Rich 5 years ago

    Yes, the first half looks pretty easy but as we all know Pitt, Air Force and Michigan State always generally seem to give ND problems. If they aren’t 6-0 at that point look out.

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    1. Toulmin H. Brown 5 years ago

      M.S.U. was a key win for Notre dame 2012.

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  3. Toulmin H. Brown 5 years ago

    With all due respect to Notre Dame & “Our Lady of the Lakes” children this ranking/list falls far short of my normal expectations.

    a.Pittsburgh #9 !!!??

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  4. Michael the Archangel 5 years ago

    Regardless of who’s returning, count on Pitt to be overmatched
    and yet over perform against the Irish. Let’s hope the team remembers what almost happened last year
    against Pitt. And MSU is due for one of those too familiar battles that have characterized
    this series until recently.

    What’s most dangerous about the entire schedule is there are few games where a let down couldn’t lead to a
    ( I refuse to use the “L” word) troubling outcome.

    Bottom line- I expect a more explosive ND offense to evolve and develop
    to be more ready to risk and be less predictable (especially in the red zone)
    to out score these two traditional rivals, and the other top tier opponents
    we face.
    Pour on the points.
    Be aggressive on “D”, and don’t play safe on offense, even with a lead.
    Go Irish.

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  5. pete 5 years ago

    I agree with this outlook for these teams. However, no one can truly know for sure how any game or season is going to play out. My feeling is Notre Dame will go as far as their offense and special teams take them. The good news is the talent is there. The question is can Kelly and his staff get it to produce?

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    1. Toulmin H. Brown 5 years ago

      Unforeseen injuries can and often do alter team rankings.

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