Notre Dame Football: Pivotal Games on Fighting Irish Season Schedule
Notre Dame's football team plays a rigorous schedule in 2012. You can't consider any of the team's 12 opponents a "night off." From Week 1 against Navy to the final game of the season against Southern California, Notre Dame will be tested.
This is a talented, but flawed group of players. Expect them to hold a firm place in the bottom half of the Top 25 for the length of the season.
A few games this year are pivotal for Notre Dame's success. Let's see which tilts are the most important this time around for Brian Kelly's Fighting Irish.
The battle for the Megaphone Trophy is always worth watching. Both teams play blue-collar football, and the rivalry is always competitive.
Notre Dame has lost 10 out of 14 meetings with Michigan State going into this matchup in Week 3. It will be the team's first major test (unless you count Purdue) before facing Michigan the following week. Brian Kelly and company will want to avoid facing a two-game losing streak early in the season.
Michigan State will be a different team without Kirk Cousins under center. B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin are gone from the receiving corps. That doesn't mean this squad isn't dangerous, though. The Spartans' run game is deadly, and William Gholston is one of the best defensive ends in the entire nation.
Which game do you expect Notre Dame to win?
Notre Dame will be pushed to the limit on both sides of the ball. Away from the comforts of South Bend, this is a potential early-season pitfall.
I sort of gave this one away, but we can talk about it anyway. After all, it is a huge rivalry. It was big enough for the two universities to renew their head-to-head battle through 2031 back in 2007, and nothing has changed in that regard.
The outcome of this game is always tough to predict. Sometimes home-field advantage is enough to tip the scales in one team's favor.
The Wolverines are one of the top teams in the Big Ten this season. This offense could give Notre Dame's defense a ton of problems, especially if Denard Robinson is given room to operate in the open field.
This game is always must-watch television because of the always-growing rivalry. This year will add another chapter to that. Michigan is the better all-around squad this year, but Notre Dame is one reliable quarterback away from getting over the hump.
By this time I expect Notre Dame to have five wins with losses to Michigan and Stanford. A victory over Oklahoma would go a long way toward a reasonable nine-win season, but a loss could leave fans wishing they had more.
Notre Dame's schedule of games after this consists of Pittsburgh, Boston College, Wake Forest and USC. The Fighting Irish will be favored in all but the last.
This Week 9 matchup will determine Notre Dame's overall success this season. The Sooners will have a prolific passing attack with a hard-nosed defense to match. Bob Stoops always brings a tough team to the game, and Norman is never a friendly place to play.
Notre Dame's defining matchup is right here. If the team can win, and possibly steal one of the losses I mentioned earlier, the season is going to be a success. The same can't be said if Brian Kelly's squad drop this game.
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