Notre Dame Football: Games That Will Define the Fighting Irish's Season
No sport lives out the phrase of “every game counts” like college football.
Will ND contend for a BCS Bowl in 2012?
Notre Dame’s schedule is loaded with obstacles this season. Just one loss could take the Fighting Irish out of the national championship race, but beating any of the following teams would send them in the right direction in terms of clinching a bowl bid.
Here are four matchups in which the outcomes will define their season.
4. Michigan State
No Kirk Cousins? No sweat.
Michigan State will enter the season ranked No. 13 in the country. Notre Dame is No. 24 and will be favored in its first two games against Navy and Purdue. If Brian Kelly’s crew takes care of business (and the Spartans beat Boise State and Central Michigan), Notre Dame will travel to East Lansing for a nationally televised battle in which only one undefeated team will walk away alive.
In it, the Fighting Irish will either be sent back down to earth or they’ll emerge as a legitimate contender.
Notre Dame’s schedule shows them no mercy. The very next week, it’ll take on the Wolverines.
Denard Robinson is a Heisman Trophy candidate and as a senior, you better believe he’ll have No. 8 Michigan thinking national title.
The contest will mark the start of a four-game home stand for the Fighting Irish (OK, I guess the schedule is a little merciful). If they’re able to upset Michigan State and Michigan, they should have enough momentum to mow down Miami, Stanford and BYU—as long as they don’t suffer from an emotional hangover.
After Notre Dame’s four-game home stand, it’ll hit the road again to take on the Sooners.
Landry Jones and company are currently ranked No. 4 in the nation and it wouldn’t be shocking at all if they were still undefeated by the time October 27th rolls around.
The matchup is huge because what follows it is a stretch of games against Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest. Each of those contests is extremely winnable. An upset win over the mighty Sooners could catapult to the top of the college football world (depending on the Fighting Irish’s record at this point), but a loss would give their upcoming opponents confidence.
Notre Dame has defeated its bitter rival just once in the past decade. Depending on who you ask, USC could be the team to beat in all of college football this year. That’s why no matter how many games the Fighting Irish have won at this point in the season, knocking Matt Barkley and Robert Woods out of the national championship discussion will be their agenda.
And you better believe even if Notre Dame isn’t in contention for a major bowl game themselves, ruining the Trojans’ promising season will make for a satisfying campaign.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.
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