Notre Dame Football: Toughest Matchups for Irish
As the most prominent independent football program in the country, Notre Dame does not have to adhere to some of the scheduling issues that conference-affiliated schools do.
Think LSU and Alabama playing twice, once for the national title, and the firestorm that created.
Notre Dame has some leeway with their scheduling, but instead of scheduling cake-walk opponents, the Irish consistently build themselves a difficult schedule.
The 2012 season continues that trend with match-ups against teams like Oklahoma, Michigan and Michigan State.
The Irish also close out the year with preseason No. 1 USC in a game that could have a significant impact on the national title.
Here are two of the most difficult match-ups expected for the Irish in 2012 and one sleeper-game that could change the season.
Oklahoma (10/27, Norman, OK)
After back-to-back home games for the Irish in October (Stanford and BYU), Notre Dame goes to Norman to pay a visit to the Sooners.
Oklahoma is preseason ranked No. 4, but received no first-place votes from the Coaches Poll.
Still, the Sooners have quarterback senior Landry Jones, and most of the pieces of their offense back. Jones finished third in the NCAA in passing yards (4,463) last season. He will hope to get last year’s sixth-best offense back to a BCS-bowl game.
The Sooners should come into this game well rested. They have Kansas the week before this contest, following one of their biggest Big 12 tests of the season against Texas.
This could be a high-scoring affair, if Notre Dame can ever decide who will command their offense. Currently, it’s down to sophomore Everett Golson and junior Andrew Hendrix.
This match-up should be a good shootout in Norman to close out the October schedules.
USC (11/24, in Los Angeles, Season Finale)
No surprise to see the preseason No. 1 as a tough match-up for the Irish. The Pac-12 is down, again, this season, which will help USC in their quest for the national title.
The Pac-12 has just three teams in the preseason top 25 (USC, Oregon, Stanford) and only two that are real contenders.
USC’s Matt Barkley returned for his senior season for one reason, a national title. That could be on the line with this season finale.
USC faces Oregon on Nov. 3, which would give them time to recover from a loss and still make a case for the national title.
Notre Dame is a tough test in this emotional shootout with a significant amount of potential implications.
Both of Notre Dame’s toughest games this season will be on the road and high-scoring affairs.
Who will be Notre Dame's toughest test?
Notre Dame has four extremely tough games this season in Oklahoma, USC, Michigan and Michigan State. A 2-2 record through those four games would be respectable and could still get Notre Dame into a significant bowl game.
This difficult sleeper game, and potential sleeper team, could sneak up and knock the Irish off course—Wake Forest.
The Demon Deacons head to Notre Dame Nov. 17. That game is the week before USC. Notre Dame can’t overlook the Deacs, even if the rest of the country is.
Wake Forest was picked to finish fourth in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, not even the whole conference. But Wake Forest has junior QB Tanner Price and junior running back Josh Harris.
Harris missed the majority of last season due to injury but turned some heads as a freshman. Harris gained 264 yards against Virginia Tech’s defense in 2009, the same year VT finished the year No. 10.
If he’s healthy, Wake Forest may be talking about big things in the ACC. Harris and the Demon Deacons could prove to be a handful for the Irish.
Circle this date on the calendar. In 2006, when Wake Forest was picked to finished last in the ACC, they won the ACC.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
"I'm disappointed, because I always like to be picked last. The year we won the ACC we were picked last," said Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe (via wakeforestsports.com). "We just want to be able to look back at the end of the year and feel like we proved we were better than people thought."
Notre Dame Complete Schedule
9/1 Navy (Dublin, Ireland)
9/15 @Michigan State
10/6 Miami (Chicago)
11/10 @Boston College
11/17 Wake Forest
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