Notre Dame Faces Toughest Schedule in Country in 2014

Photo: Matt Cashore / USA Today Sports
Photo: Matt Cashore / USA Today Sports

Notre Dame’s road to a playoff berth in 2014 potentially got a lot tougher on Friday after news of the ongoing academic investigation involving four players broke.  That road was already rocky at best according to college football pre-season prognosticator extraordinaire Phil Steele.  The grandfather of college football previews ranks Notre Dame’s 2014 schedule as the toughest in the country.

It’s easy to see why Notre Dame’s schedule is ranked so highly by Steele – the Irish face a daunting slate of games despite having just three true road games in 2014.  The Irish will be away from Notre Dame Stadium for a total of six contests this season, but trips to the Meadowlands… excuse me, Metlife Stadium, to face Syracuse, the Shamrock Series game against Purdue in Indianapolis, and a road game vs. Navy in FedEx Field will find the Irish playing in front of pro-Notre Dame crowds on the road.

Even with all of that, Notre Dame faces five different opponents in both the pre-season AP and Coaches Top 25 Polls – defending national champion and pre-season #1 Florida State, #11 Stanford, #15 USC, #18/19 Arizona State, and #23 North Carolina.  In addition to those five ranked opponents, Michigan, Northwestern, and Louisville were all in the “others receiving votes” categories of both polls as well.

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Only Purdue, Rice, Syracuse, and Navy failed to receive any votes in either of the top 25.   Rice, however, did win 10 games a year ago while Navy won nine.

Notre Dame’s schedule isn’t exactly laid out well for them either.  After not having to leave the state of Indiana until September 28th, the Irish face a brutal October stretch that will define their 2014 season.  After hosting Stanford and North Carolina on back to back weekends, the Irish travel to Tallahassee for the first time since 2002.  Three straight games against pre-season ranked opponents without a bye in between.  Yikes.

November isn’t much better for Notre Dame.  Back to back home games against Northwestern and Louisville are bookended by road trips to Tempe and Los Angeles.

Interestingly enough, the last time Steele ranked Notre Dame’s schedule as the toughest in the country was just two years ago in 2012 before the Irish started the season unranked and navigated through the regular season undefeated.

None of Notre Dame’s opponents face a top 10 schedule according to Steele.  The highest ranked opponent schedule amongst Notre Dame’s 12 opponents was Stanford’s which Steele ranks 16th in the country.  USC’s schedule is ranked just behind Stanford’s at #17.  Syracuse and Arizona State face top 25 schedules as well with the Orange coming in at 22 and the Sun Devils 25.

Notre Dame’s opponent with the easiest slate in 2014?  Navy with the 108th “toughest” schedule in 2014.  Something tells me that the Midshipmen won’t be able to parlay that schedule into a playoff berth.

Florida State, Notre Dame’s toughest opponent and also it’s most likely to earn a playoff berth, faces just the 46th ranked schedule.   Meanwhile, amazingly, Alabama, which plays in the almighty SEC faces just the 61st ranked schedule in 2014 according to Steele.

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  1. Lmao is this some kind of joke? Hardest schedule outside of the SEC maybe. Purdue? Navy? I’m trying to hold in my laughter. Auburn has to go on the road to Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Georgia, and Alabama. Not to mention they still have other conference games to play including A&M, South Carolina, and LSU who aren’t exactly going to roll over. Notre Dame’s schedule is a joke, if they played even half the teams Auburn did they would finish with 3-4 losses easy.

  2. remember the national championship game?..we went 3 and out..their first drive resulted in a TD..we went 3 and out again..their second possession resulted in a TD….we went 3 and out again…their third possession resulted in a TD

    Probably by far, the worst game ND ever played and the most lopsided.

  3. there is a good chance we can win 8-9 games this year, if we get a few breaks. The academic scandal will not help things.

  4. FSU fan who enjoyed the great matchups with ND in the past. Glad to see ND adding 4 ACC games a year. We’ve had yearly matchups with Miami & Florida for many years. ND has a history of teams they’ve matched up with every year like Southern Cal as well. These are the competitive games we look forward to every year win or loose. Wish FSU & ND could be a yearly matchup as well.

    Except for Oct 18 I’ll be rooting for ND all year.

    Good Luck,

  5. I demur on FSU’s scheduling. This year they have scheduled out-of-conference games with Florida and Oklahoma State, picking up ND, Miami and Clemson in the ACC. That is not chump change.

    And for a number of years, FSU played ND, Miami and Florida out-of-conference before the Canes joined the ACC.

    In fact, in the long and glorious history of college football, I nominate the ‘Noles as the second most courageous schedulers of all time, right behind our Irish. IF you disagree, please nominate YOUR second choice and we can have a civil debate.

    To see cowardice in scheduling, cf Auburn, under Tommy Tuberville, which ducked FSU because of the feat of the Bowden backlash when Terry got fired.

  6. I’ve heard it over& over & over & I totally agree. “You wanna be the best, you gotta beat the best.” Bring ’em on!

  7. Does anyone have any insight on the method behind our scheduling? Why don’t we emulate the top schools, such as Alabama, FSU, and especially Ohio State. Generally, they seem to play about 6 or 7 absolute patsies, 1-3 decent teams and 1 or 2 tough teams. Have you see OSU’s schedule? Granted, the Big10 is having some down years, and year in and year out it’s hard to tell which teas are going to have good years (I’m talking more SEC). ND seems to play 2 or 3 patsies, 6 or 7 solid teams (top 30 or so caliber), and 2 or 3 top 5 or top 10 teams.

    The advantage is obvious, it’s hard to get up every week, and even if the top teams have bad games, it’s not that hard to pull out a win against Akron, or Ohio or Minnesota. ND, on the other hand, by virtue of playing solid teams in solid conferences, week in and week out, has a much better chance of having a down week or two, which can result in a loss.

    I could be a bit off with this, but in general, I think it is accurate.


    Frustrated ND fan in Chicago (feeling much like a Cubs fan these days).

    1. Sean,

      It should be noted that major college football programs set up their schedules at least a couple years in advance. (ND included)

      That means some of these relatively weak schedules were compiled during the former BCS format years.

      ND should actually have some advantage here this year.

      The new football playoff is supposed to be similar to that of the NCAA Basketball playoff where Strength of Schedule and Quality wins play a major role in deciding who gets in.

      At this point I’m a bit skeptical that it will really work that way.

      I have these visions of a one loss, 61st ranked SOS Alabama clamoring for a playoff spot over some other one loss team who played a more difficult schedule because, well, they’re Alabama and they’re from the SEC!

      Cubs suck!

    2. Even when ND does have a patsy on the schedule they often proceed to turn it into a nail biter anyway, which can be pretty embarrassing. If ND ever got their sh!t together, they’d MAKE patsies out of the likes of a UNC, LOU, NW, ASU. Oh but I know, I know, I’m supposed to tremble in fear at those little numbers in front of UNC and ASU

  8. Is it better to be well rested or battle tested?

    FSU comes into the meeting with ND having played Wake Forest and Syracuse, while the Irish are coming off games against Stanford and UNC.

    Regarding the Seminoles and Crimson Tide’s schedule strength:
    1) It’s hard to have a top 25 schedule when you only play 2 ranked teams and have Citadel on the schedule (FSU).
    2) It’s hard to have a top 50 schedule when you have Florida Atlantic, Southern Miss, and Western Carolina on the docket (Alabama).

    1. Too easy.
      Well rested trumps battle tested.

      Impossible to gear up week in and week out with the competitive nature of college football today. FSU, Alabama, Ohio State have figured it out. Enjoy the challenge; just don’t expect arriving at the playoffs with it.

  9. Alabama plays 61st ranked schedule. Maybe it is time to join a conference…SEC anyone? What a joke!
    Go Irish!

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