Notre Dame Football Faces Challenging 2019 Schedule

Heading into the 2019 College Football Season the Fighting Irish will face one of the toughest schedules in the country. A year ago, Brian Kelly and the Irish were able to run the table with a 12-0 regular season, capped off by their first berth in the College Football Playoffs. If Notre Dame wants a shot at redemption from their disappointing Cotton Bowl, the Irish will have to navigate a formidable schedule.

Marquee Road Matchups:

At Georgia (September 21st)

After facing the Georgia Bulldogs in South Bend during the 2017 season, the Irish will play the final game of the home-home series this fall. Georgia has one of the most talented rosters in the country. Each of the past two seasons, the Bulldogs were only a few plays from beating the Alabama Crimson Tide.

The Georgia Bulldogs ended their season with an 11-3 record and loss to the Texas Longhorns in the Sugar Bowl. Kirby Smart’s team will be playing with a major chip on their shoulder in 2019. Unfortunately for the Irish, Sanford Stadium is one of the hardest places to win in the country. If the 2019 version of the Georgia Bulldogs resembles the previous two seasons, then the Irish are in for a battle.

At Michigan (October 26th)

The Irish are heading back to Ann Arbor, where they haven’t won since 2005. Brian Kelly and the Irish have been apart of several prime-time matchups at Michigan. Kelly will be looking to get his first ever win in Ann Arbor this season. This game will almost certainly be a prime-time night game and expect to see Michigan Stadium at its peak capacity of 115,00-seats.

Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines finished the season with an 10-3 record and loss to Florida in the Peach Bowl. Shea Patterson will return as the starting quarterback for the Wolverines next season with a new offense, under former Alabama Co-Offensive Coordinator Josh Gattis. However, Brian Kelly and the Irish will have tape on this new offense, as they won’t travel to Ann Arbor until the middle of the season.

At Stanford (November 30th)

Although Cardinal Stadium is not the most intimidating venue in college football, the Irish have lost 5 straight games in Palo Alto. The Stanford Cardinal have even won several games in South Bend over the last decade as well. Although this rivalry doesn’t get the publicity as USC, the Irish have had more success against the Trojans than Cardinal in recent history.

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Stanford has won 7 of the past 10 meetings in this match-up. David Shaw always seems to have answers for the Irish. Even last season the Cardinal managed to give the Irish a hard-fought game up until the late half of the 4th quarter. If the Irish want to make the playoffs, they will almost have to finish the season on a high note and get a win in Palo Alto.

Marquee Home Matchups:

USC (October 12th)

The Fighting Irish have beaten the USC Trojans each of the past two seasons. USC has decided not to fire Head Coach Clay Helton; even citing Brian Kelly’s turnaround after the 2016 as evidence for keeping their coach. Nevertheless, this will likely be the biggest home game of the 2019 season for Notre Dame Football.

USC has the potential ranked when they visit South Ben this fall. In 2016 the Trojans finished 10-3 with a Cotton Bowl victory. The following season USC finished 11-3 with a Pac-12 Title. Even though last season Clay Helton and the Trojans went 5-7, don’t expect this to be an easy win for the Irish.

Virginia tech (November 2nd)

Justin Fuente and the Hokies got the best of the Irish in 2016. Conversely, Notre Dame dominated Virginia Tech under the bright lights of Lane Stadium last season. The Hokies are looking for a bounce back season in 2019. Again, this match-up has the potential to be one of the biggest home games for Brian Kelly in the Irish.

Notre Dame can only hope the Hokies are ranked when they visit South Bend, to help strengthen the schedule in 2019.

Boston College (November 23rd)

Long time rival, Boston College visits South Bend late in November. More recently it has been a rivalry for the Eagles and not particularly the Irish. In 2018, the Boston College Eagles had a solid 7-5 season. This game has the potential to be a trap game, before the Irish head to California to face Stanford.

Boston College always gives Notre Dame their best game. The last several meetings have been lopsided, but each season a rival seems to take the Irish down to the wire, such as the Pittsburgh Panthers a year ago.

Notre Dame Schedule Always Criticized

Each college football season Notre Dame has one of the hardest schedules in the country. However, every time the Irish have a successful season, skeptics doubt Notre Dame’s strength of schedule. Even last season when Notre Dame was 11-0 and beat Michigan, skeptics argued the Wolverines had become a better team heading into the season finale; but we all know how that narrative was unequivocally false.

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This season the Irish play two non-conference, top-10 road games. Most programs don’t have 2 top-ten match ups all season, let alone on the road and outside their conference schedule. Yes, the Irish only play 5 ACC games each season, but the fact that they’re playing an SEC team and Big Ten team on the road shows just how difficult Notre Dame’s schedule will be in 2019.

2019 Expectations

In South Bend the expectations first and foremost will be to get back to the College Football Playoffs. If Ian Book can lead the Irish to an undefeated season, Notre Dame would undoubtedly be in the Playoffs. But, would a one-loss Fighting Irish team make the College Football Playoffs?

If Notre Dame finishes with an 11-1 record and a close loss to Michigan or Georgia, they would have a great argument for making the Playoffs once again. Certainly, the playoff scenarios are dictated by how the other elite teams perform in the country, but the Irish would have a strong case regardless of a conference championship game.

Final Thoughts

For a little perspective, the Alabama Crimson Tide haven’t played a non-conference road game since Penn State in 2011. As previously mentioned, the Irish will be taking on essentially 2 top-ten, non-conference teams on the road this fall (assuming Michigan and Georgia play up to par). Yet, Alabama only plays neutral site games within the confines of the South.

Everyone wants to talk about how the Irish don’t play a conference championship. However, teams like Pittsburgh and Northwestern competed in championship games last season, while the Irish beat both during the regular season. Brian Kelly and the Irish will face all their toughest opponents on the road this fall. If the Irish want to make it back to the playoffs, they will have to have key victories away from South Bend.

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8 Comments

  1. I think the Irish will need to go 12-0 to get in the playoffs. After getting shellacked by Clemson last year the Irish will not get the benefit of the doubt on an 11-1 season no matter how tough the schedule is. Now 11-1, 10-2 will likely get them a NY Day 6 bowl (depending on who the losses are and by how much) but to get to the CFB Playoff they will need to be undefeated.

    The only thing I was happy about last year was that Georgia got beat in their bowl game. I was getting tired of the complaints they belonged over the Irish, despite their 10-2 record at the end of the season. I don’t care how strong they ‘looked’ last year, they lost the 3 games that gave them the opportunity to say they belonged. Sure, they beat some of the bottom dwellers pretty well. But when it counted most they faltered so they can shut up now.

    But unfortunately because of the Irish’ poor showing in the Cotton Bowl, and only managing 3 measly points, 1 loss will likely doom them. And this schedule does not look favorable for going undefeated.

    And I too am sick of the Irish schedule arguments by the haters. Haters love to throw Navy in our face and I get sooooo sick of it. I would like to remind the haters that Navy can beat schools like Savannah State pretty handily too. And the haters forget the division II teams their schools play, sometimes more than once depending on the school, something ND never does.

  2. We need to win a New Year’s Six bowl game…we have been getting shellacked in every one we’ve been invited to since the mid-90’s! Now for that to be a playoff game, we probably need to go undefeated: there will be, after all, five conference champions going up against us for only four slots. The odds of us jumping (or holding off) two of them with a loss on our record is pretty remote since we will be watching them win conference championships on TV…not a good way to jump or hold off an elite team!
    But look, there are four other New Year Six Bowl games, and most of them would be ecstatic to invite a one, or even a two loss Notre Dame Team. So I would think that with the returning team we have we will be in some NY Six Bowl no matter if we go 12-0, 11-1, or 10-2. And although my first priority is a National Championship, right behind that is a win in a New Year’s Six Bowl. We need that either way… National Championship or not.

    BGC ’77 ’82

  3. Nah, not so much. USC is a hot mess. Stanford has been facing slippage under David Shaw in the last couple of years.
    These are not the Harbaugh Cardinals.

    Sure, Michigan will be tough in Ann Arbor, but hell, we’ve won up there since Leahy did it in ’43. Chuck Male, Rocket Ismail and much more. It is no worse than a tossup, but there are disturbances in the force in Washtenaw County.

    Georgia? 9/21? Oh Yeah, that is well North of a challenge.
    I have grown weary of criticizing other team’s schedules. It is aninterwebgossipyeffeminateReMFymetrosexualeffeminate(in case you missed it the first time) exercise for the kind of people with whom I no longer associate.

    Tend your own sheep Notre Dame.
    And if burn someone else’s house down, it DOES NOT make your house bigger.

    This schedule sets up well, much better than 2018, give or take the trip to Sanford Stadium. It is Sanford, not Stanford, that may be the bete noir of the ’19 Irish.

    Go unbeaten or get excluded from the playoffs. Life is tough, play hard. Excuses and self-pity are for wimps and narcissists Real Notre Dame men suck it up and move on. If you disagree, well, you can always send me a tweet. Good luck with that.

    Go Irish

  4. The difference is Alabama beats the “elite” teams the majority of the time and the Irish get absolutely manhandled EVERY SINGLE time. So nobody really needs to argue Bama’s schedule because of their recent years of success in beating really good teams. I’m afraid ND will have to go undefeated to make it unless there is a major collapse in the other power 5 conferences.

    1. Alabama plays sub-par teams to work their schemes into place when Notre Dame plays teams that have the possibility to beat them at any given week.

  5. Sorry, but a 1 loss Irish team will never make the play offs, esp since we don’t have a conference play-off. People were calling for them to not make lat year when they were perfect.

  6. This edition will be better than last years. With the overall depth and experience. Especially a quarterback that now has a full season under his belt. However the three challenging road games will tell the tale. I expect at least 10-2. And a non- championship bowl win to finish up at a respectable 11-2.

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