Notre Dame's Path to Undefeated Season Suddenly Looks Easier with Stanford Loss

Randy ChambersAnalyst ISeptember 28, 2012

STANFORD, CA - NOVEMBER 26:  Stanford Cardinal head coach David Shaw runs on to the field for their game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Stanford Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Stanford, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

You can cross Stanford off the list of tough opponents for Notre Dame. After the Cardinals lost to Washington by a score of 17-13, there is one less road block in the way from completing an undefeated season.

Remember when this team wasn't even considered a BCS bowl contender because of the brutal schedule the Irish were facing in 2012? It is amazing how a month of football can change how things look.

A team that has begun the season 4-0 for the first time since 2002 now has a realistic shot of running the table. The Irish already took care of some of the more difficult teams on the schedule with a trip to East Lansing and a victory over the Michigan Wolverines for the first time since 2008.

Now, most of the games from here on out appear to be cakewalks for head coach Brian Kelly and his troops.

With a week off to prepare, the matchup against the Miami Hurricanes shouldn't concern many people in South Bend. Stanford has shown that it is not a team that will go down quietly, but it certainly isn't the team that everybody was building up to be after the upset victory over USC a few weeks ago.

The Cardinals are solid defensively, but can't move the chains whatsoever. Quarterback Josh Nunes painfully struggles with accuracy issues, while the team only produced 10 first downs against a much smaller defense in Washington. With the Irish having one of the better front sevens in college football, it wouldn't be surprising if the Irish pitched a shutout when these teams met on October 13.

As far as other teams on the schedule, BYU has fallen apart lately and is dealing with a quarterback controversy. Like we have seen the past couple of years, Oklahoma is looking like a team that is quickly breaking down, which makes a trip to Norman look less daunting.

Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest are a combined 6-5 through the first month of games. And getting two of those three contests in Notre Dame Stadium makes things that much easier for this club.

The real test that will continue to remain on the schedule is the last game of the season against the USC Trojans. Although that team hasn't lived up to expectations early on either, it is still a squad that will remain in the national championship conversation. It is also a program that has won nine of the last 10 meetings against the Irish.

But thanks to another below average showing from a team on Notre Dames schedule, these matchups aren't looking as difficult as they once did. It seems like as the Irish continue to improve with each passing week, the opposition is beginning to break down one by one.

A schedule that once looked like the toughest in the country at one point appears to be far less challenging a month later.