2017 Notre Dame Football Schedule: WIld Card Games

Notre Dame football fans have spent the offseason looking at the 2017 schedule and making quick assessments about potential wins and losses. Some of those selections are made with an added dose of confidence, while others have an uncertainty about them because of their status as wild card games.

A wild card game is one in which there’s no guarantee about what Brian Kelly and his staff can expect to face during the course of a contest. In the case of the 2017 Irish, four specific clashes meet this criteria and deserve a closer look.

Temple, September 2

The Temple Owls come to South Bend to get the season started, with the team headed by new head coach Geoff Collins. The Owls have been able to increase their win total by four games during each of the past two seasons, numbers that are unsustainable.

However, coming off a 10-4 record that saw them win the American Athletic Conference, the Owls still have offensive weapons that can do damage against Notre Dame. In addition, Collins’ reputation as a strong defensive coach could help prevent any slide following the losses on that side of the ball.

The question marks arise from the fact that because it’s the first game of the season, Collins and his staff may still be getting the team in sync. While the Irish have won each of the two meetings in this series, the new coach phenomenon makes this contest hard to figure out.

Michigan State, September 23

Over much of the last half-century, Notre Dame has done well when visiting East Lansing, including during their last trip in 2012, a 20-3 victory. Last season, the Spartans beat the Irish and had a 2-0 mark before then watching the season collapse with nine losses in the last ten games.

An ugly and ongoing scandal involving some Michigan State players has Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio trying to focus on preparing for the 2017 season. Prior to meeting Notre Dame, Michigan State faces a pair of MAC teams at home and then has a bye.

Are those games confidence builders that will be aided by a week of rest? Or will they serve as an early indicator that the 2016 troubles are continuing. The Irish may have finished with a better record than the Spartans last year, but they’re not in a position to take anyone lightly this season.

Miami, November 11

Last year, Notre Dame started off strong against the Miami Hurricanes and then squeezed out a tight victory. This year, the scene shifts to South Beach, where the Irish haven’t won in their last five trips and haven’t tasted victory in 40 years.

Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt is in his second season with the school and is looking to build on a 9-4 rollercoaster campaign in 2016. Four wins, followed by four losses were then followed by five wins to close out the season.

Given that streaky play from last year, it’s uncertain if the Irish will be facing a team in a tailspin or one in the midst of a winning streak. Last year’s five-game surge at the end came after losing to a weak Notre Dame team and since the embers of a rivalry still crackle, Kelly and his squad need to be on their toes.

Navy, November 18

This storied rivalry dates back 90 years, though the Irish still hold a commanding 76-13-1 lead in the series. The problem is that in the last decade, they’ve lost four of the last 10 clashes, including last season’s 28-27 heartbreaker in Jacksonville.

The Midshipmen have won at least eight games in a season in all but one of the last 14 years. That level of consistency and their recent success against Notre Dame has coincided with the tenure of head coach Ken Niumatalolo, who emphasizes the run.

The Irish run defense has been miserable over the past two seasons, which could make for a long afternoon. Whether or not they rise to the occasion in this game is likely dependent on the course of their season, since this will be the second-last regular season matchup. Another struggle-filled campaign could set the stage for the deflated Irish to wave the white flag here.

The Realistic Outlook

Zeroing on any one game right now could be seen as an exercise in futility, with every contest currently a question mark for a 4-8 team looking to get back on track. Still, the four games above are winnable contests that may determine whether Notre Dame goes bowling or Brian Kelly starts polishing up his resume.

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  1. Hi, I’m new and have a lot to learn. I’m a team player. I hope for the best for the FightinIrish this season. Before the first game I think we should all say a decade of the Rosary for the success of this Team!

  2. I remain flummoxed, or to use the BobbyBowdenism bumfuzzled by the modern labeling of “trap” and “wild card games”

    I understand letdown games. READ MY LIPS. The Irish will play listlessly against Boston College, the letdown spot after Gerogia. that follows, in college football, as night does the day.

    They will be back up for Michigan State, which is in a mess. Mr. Vitovich may, in his archives, have an article by some yellow journalist which predicted the demise of Michigan State when Harbaug arrived in Ann Arbor. Last year was just a first test.

    College football is so much more emotional than the NFL, which is played in cold blood. Let down games occur, whether the grownups who watch the kids play like it or not. Boston College following a visit from a big highly rated Southern Power will evoke nightmares from the ’93 season.

    North Carolina State, for all the usual reasons, qualifies as a let down spot, arriving the week after USC.

    As far as Miami goes, their location suffers from being far, far away from Little Havana. If you’ve been to games at the Old Orange Bowl, you would understand. But Richt, a HURRICANE ALUM, turned the Miami ship around. He has athletes and
    he knows how big the game is.

    Temple’s “offensive weapons.” Really?

    1. “Temple’s offensive weapons? Really?” Who-hoo, who-hoo?

      OK, that’s may be a bad joke. (Temple’s mascot is “The Owls”)

    2. Duranko is right again about “let down” games. These are kids, not pros. And they have things to prioritize – like studies for example. And above all, they will have their heads in the clouds if they are 2-0 after Georgia. You can tell them to watch out, and to play one game at a time, etc. until you are blue in the face, and they will listen, and repeat it to all, but actually living it for twelve games on the college level is darn near impossible. Most seasons, ARA had only 9 games to worry about and his teams would show up flat once or twice…something he never stopped worrying about. Fortunately, they usually found a way to win anyway, though not always. And isn’t that what champions do…find a way to win even when they don’t play a great game?

      I’m scared of Boston College from the top of my head right down to my socks…at least if we beat Georgia! But these guys can be champions if they learn how to win and play with pride. “Pride”…that one word, used to be our motto before “Play like a Champion” was brought to ND from Nebraska by George Kelly. They are both great mottos and we are going to need them both…against Georgia and BC and even Temple.

      Swagger is good…it’s OK. But Pride always trumps swagger when all else is about equal.
      Pride can be hurt, for sure, even badly sometimes, but it can never be destroyed because it comes from within you.
      I know this from coaching wrestling.

      The last thing our guys used to see before they took the field in our stadium at the end of the tunnel (where “Play like a Champion” hangs now) is that one word – PRIDE.

      I sure hope their pride was hurt last year…if it wasn’t, we are in big trouble. And I really hope they play every game with PRIDE this year…and PLAY LIKE A CHAMPION every time they take the field. The two are like fist and glove.

      Bruce G. Curme ’77 ’82

  3. I think it is safe to say that there are NO trap games, NO gimmees, NOTHING easy. Every game and every team will have to be prepared for in a very diligent manner. Those days of knowing this is a knotch in the belt have come and gone.

    1. Agree Mr. Knight. Don’t agree with the author or other posters on this “who are the “special teams” Irish should look out for. All of them are dangerous on the 12 game schedule.Author Brad Sullivan ‘s paragraph says ND has only 4 teams in his “Wild Card ” list . Others say /mention “Trap Games” and others mention “Let Down Games.” I’m wondering if “Scream 5” or “Not Another Teen Movie” is going to hit the movie theaters soon. I think we’ve milked the cow on this subject.

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