Even though the Irish finished the 2012 season undefeated, the level of expectations entering last season were at best, a mixed bag. Sure some had high hopes, others were cautiously optimistic, while a small contingency felt that if the Irish won 6 games it would be a success, given the perceived difficulty of their schedule.
This year the level of expectations have grown mightily and the amount of pressure that coincides with those expectations will be enormous. Although Brian Kelly did a very good job of keeping his 2012 squad prepared and emotionally ready for last season’s grueling schedule, it is a daunting task to replicate. When your program is included in the elite, there is always going to be the infamous “trap” games, and we wanted to take a look a 3 possible opponents who we think would fall under that category in 2013.
Game 1- Purdue (At Ross Ade Stadium week 3)
This is not your typical Purdue team that Irish fans are used to facing. They were hit hard with graduation, as they lost their top 2 quarterbacks in Marve and Terbush, and their best defender in Kawann Short. This is also a team that is in flux as new coach Darrell Hazzell takes over in his first year. Why we feel this is such a dangerous game is that it is stuck right in the middle of a trip to Ann Arbor, and a home game against Michigan State, obviously two of Notre Dames biggest rivals.
Purdue definitely lost some weapons last year, but since 1997 at home against the Irish, the Boilermakers are 4-4, and you know coach Hazzell will be preaching to his team about what a solid victory this would be, just three games in. This game will become even more dangerous if the Irish are victorious against Michigan in the prior week.
Game 2 – Air Force (At Falcon Stadium week 9)
Yes, it’s another road game, but what makes this so dangerous to us, is that it comes after consecutive games against Oklahoma, Arizona State, and USC. Yes it’s true the Falcons lost Conner Dietz behind center, and they were one of the worst teams in the nation in the turn-over battle, but that doesn’t stop this game from a being a very dangerous one. It is week 9, so that means that new quarterback Kale Pearson will have over 2 months under his belt running this offense, and the Irish are sure to be tired after a stretch like this against elite teams.
If you also throw in the fact that this game will be played at an elevation over 6000 feet above sea level, the Irish could truly struggle in Colorado Springs. Replacing nine starters on offense is no easy task, but stopping the wishbone offense when you’re winded and struggling for oxygen is even harder.
Game 3 – BYU (At Notre Dame Stadium week 13)
The Irish struggled mightily against the Cougars last year, and it took a great defensive effort in the 2nd half for the Irish to pull out the victory. This year the game is once again in South Bend, but what scare us is the simple fact that Notre Dame will face BYU the week before they head out to Stanford. There are a lot of things that have to go right, but there is a very real chance that the Irish and Cardinal could both be undefeated before their meeting on national television during the last week of the year.
Having the week off before playing BYU is a huge help, as we are sure that coach Kelly will drive home the idea of what almost happened is South Bend last year, and that now is not the time to overlook anyone. Even with that luxury though, it will be very hard for the players to focus as the everyone one else, including media, fans, forums, Twitter, and Facebook will be blowing up with hype for this potential late season match-up of two undefeated top-five teams.
These are just three of the games that we think could sneak up and bite the Irish if they are not careful. Of course since we are still over 100 days away from kick off, things can change drastically, and typically do. It’s not just the Irish that have to worry about these trap games, but there’s are the only ones we are concerned about. These trap games are not a secret, and every coach is well versed on them, and every fan understands how dangerous they can be – but it’s amazing how often these types of upsets still occur on a regular basis.