When perusing the 2017 Notre Dame football schedule, the tendency for some Irish fans may be to look at the 12 regular seasons games and take for granted that some games are already in the win column. However, the danger of trap games that any good team faces might make the idea of looking past one contest might
Any team or fan base coming off a miserable 4-8 campaign likely doesn’t have the luxury of making such a limited effort when it comes to gauging how such contests will turn out. In reality, all of the games during the 2017 might be considered trap games for Notre Dame, at least until they’re able to show a clear semblance of improvement.
Listed below are three games in which the the Irish’s opponent might be able to deliver a sucker punch because of inattention on the part of Notre Dame.
Boston College (September 16)
The Irish have won the last five times these two teams have met, including the last three times they’ve made the trip to Beantown. Since the arrival of Brian Kelly to South Bend in 2010, the Eagles have either been mediocre or just plain bad, which explains why Kelly has a 4-0 record against them.
However, Boston College won its last three games of the 2016 season, including a bowl matchup against Maryland. Fifth-year head coach Steve Addazio has changed the team’s culture for the better and will no doubt have his team amped up to spring an upset.
The Irish will be coming off two home games to start the season, including a top 25 team in Georgia the week before. After BC, a date in East Lansing the following week against the Michigan State Spartans is on the agenda. Looking ahead or nursing wounds from a tough battle in this case might be a lethal mistake.
North Carolina (October 7)
Notre Dame heads to Chapel Hill for the first time since 2008, hoping to reverse the defeat in that matchup that’s been the lone loss to the Tar Heels in their last eight meetings. North Carolina enters the 2017 season in rebuilding mode after seeing most of the major parts of their offense depart from an 8-5 squad. They’re also installing a new defensive coordinator.
The situation with the Irish in this case is that they’ll be coming off a home game with Miami of Ohio and facing a bye week after they face the Tar Heels. With the USC Trojans set to hit South Bend one week later, the Notre Dame mindset could be already in prep mode for Southern Cal.
While North Carolina might be set for a tumble in the standings this season, a win against the Irish could soothe some of that pain, which means staying focused in unfriendly surroundings is once again a priority for Brian Kelly and company.
North Carolina State (October 28)
The Wolfpack make their first-ever trip to South Bend, having won last season’s contest between the two teams by a 10-3 score. The monsoon-like conditions resulted in minimal offense, with the only touchdown of the game coming off of a blocked punt, though other self-inflicted wounds on the part of the Irish didn’t help.
While revenge will be in the air for Brian Kelly’s squad, reaching that peak focus for a second straight week may be difficult after having taken on Southern Cal the week before. In contrast, North Carolina State will be fully rested after coming off their bye week. Bringing back a veteran team that nearly upset national champion Clemson last year means that they’ll be ready for what Notre Dame is set to dish out.
The Heart of the Matter
It’s conceivable that the week after the Irish face the Wolfpack might end up being yet another potential trap game. That’s because Wake Forest travels to the Golden Dome and brings a young squad with them. The reason for Notre Dame potentially overlooking this opponent stems from their trip the following week to take on the Miami Hurricanes.
However, as previously noted, the Irish are really in no position to be overlooking any opponent, good or bad. Losses in any of the above contests, especially against Boston College, could begin to grease the skids for Brian Kelly. His eighth season needs to be a rebound effort and needless stumbles along the way won’t accomplish that task.