Although many college schedules are pieced together years in advance, fans tend to use the summer off-season to breakdown, assess, and prognosticate the possibilities of the upcoming year, and this year is no different. It’s easy to put focus on games against the Yellow Jackets, Tigers, Longhorns, and Trojans, but as they say, the ‘Devil’s in the details’, and that is most definitely the case with the 2015 Notre Dame football schedule. Here are three games that have the potential to sneak up on the Irish and become the game that Irish fans will refer to after the season as the one that cost them a chance at the Playoffs.
Notre Dame at Virginia
On most any other weekend, facing the 2015 Virginia Cavaliers squad seems like a less than daunting task. Unfortunately for the Irish though, this game is sandwiched between opening week against Texas and a week three visit from nationally ranked Georgia Tech. The good news for Notre Dame? Virginia opens the year on the road at UCLA, so there is no looking ahead for the Mike London led team. The bad news (other than what we mentioned already)? tTis is the home opener for the Cavaliers, and depending on how they do against UCLA, the environment in Scott stadium could be a bit crazy. Keep in mind Irish fans, Virginia went 5-2 at home last year, with solid wins over Miami, Louisville, and Pittsburgh. This game should be a solid double digit victory for Notre Dame, but an upset isn’t out of the question.
Umass at Notre Dame
If the Irish played Umass 100 times, they would most likely win 99 of those times, but it’s that 100th time that causes concern. If you factor in that this game is played right after Georgia Tech, and right before a trip to Clemson, this game becomes the absolute definition of a trap game. Laugh if you will, but Umass had the number one ranked passing offense in the MAC last year, and a quarterback who threw for almost 335 yards a game. Obviously five wins over three seasons isn’t going to scare any opponent, but the minutemen return 18 starters this year, and are trending up in college football. The Irish could easily win this game by four touchdowns, but because of where this game lands on the schedule, an upset isn’t completely out the question. Imagine a scenario in which the Irish start 3-0, with wins over Texas and Georgia Tech, and it starts to become clearer how this game becomes dangerous, especially with the Clemson match-up looming just a week away.
Navy at Notre Dame
It’s almost unfair to list Navy as a possible trap game any longer, as they have beaten the Irish three times since 2007, and pushed Notre Dame to the edge in the last two years. And much more than the other two game we mentioned, this game scares us quite a bit, as it comes after Clemson, and right before USC. Keenan Reynolds is back for his 19th year (seemingly) and before the year is over, he will own the majority of Navy’s offensive records. There are rarely ever any games that I do not look forward to during the fall, for the Irish, but this is one of them. If the Irish win, they’re supposed to, if they lose, it’s the old “here we go again” routine. It’s basically a no-win scenario for the Irish, and is there any team that plays the Irish harder and until the final second, more than Navy? This a very dangerous game for Notre Dame, and one that could easily be overlooked fans and players alike – Let’s just hope not the coaches.
Trust us when we say if were able to recognize and define these games a possible trap games, than so is the Irish coaching staff. The funny thing about that is though, the coaches don’t actually play the game. These are young kids, many of whom aren’t even of legal drinking age, and they tend to lose focus over the course of a typical season. These types of upset are obviously not the norm, but all it takes is a look back to 2007’s Appalachian St. vs. Michigan, or 1993’s Boston College vs. Notre Dame, to know that they do happen, and happen every year. Chances are strong that the Irish will walk away with a win in all three of these games, but in our mind, these are three games under the radar that Irish fans should definitely be aware of.