Notre Dame had a much-needed day off after two physical games against Michigan and Michigan State. Now, the Irish must look towards the remainder of the season.
After a pedestrian 8-5 season in 2011 and starting the year unranked in the preseason poll, few expected this type of start from the Golden Domers. However, the squad is now 4-0 and on the way to a BCS bowl and possibly more.
Still, it is important not to get ahead of ourselves. The Irish still have eight games remaining on one of the most difficult schedules in the country.
While every game will be a challenge, the last few contests will take some extra preparation as the team attempts to continue its great play.
8. Home vs. Wake Forest, Nov. 17
Wake Forest was expected to give Florida State a bit of a challenge early in the year. However, the game ended in a 52-0 defeat. The Demon Deacons could not even finish off Duke at home in their most recent game.
This team simply does not have the talent to stay with the Irish for four quarters.
7. Home vs. Pittsburgh, Nov. 3
Paul Chryst leads a very balanced team and the Panthers have the ability to play with some of the best schools in the country. They proved that with a win over Virginia Tech a few weeks ago.
Unfortunately, this is the same squad that lost at home to Youngstown State 31-17 to open the year. Until Pitt gets its consistency down, it will not be a challenge to Notre Dame.
6. Home vs. Miami, Oct. 6
The Hurricanes have gotten out to a good start to the season. They are 4-1 and have scored at least 38 points in all four wins.
Unfortunately, the team was exposed in the loss to Kansas State, Miami's only real challenge of the season.
Notre Dame has one of the best defenses in the country and should be able to slow down Stephen Morris and company.
5. At Boston College, Nov. 10
The fact that this is a road game makes this game a little tougher for the Irish. This battle is one of only four true road games for the team all year.
Boston College always plays Notre Dame tough, winning six straight games in the rivalry between 2001 and 2008. The team also has a strong passing attack that will be tough to defend.
The players better not sleepwalk through the "Holy War," or it will go down as a loss in the record book.
4. Home vs. Stanford, Oct. 13
Stanford showed how good it can be at home when it upset USC 21-14. However, it also showed how bad it can be on the road when it lost 17-13 to Washington in the very next game.
This is a very young team with an inexperienced quarterback in Josh Nunes, but it still has a lot of talent. The defense can slow down even the best teams in the country. The Irish should win with the home-field advantage, but it will not be easy.
3. Home vs. BYU, Oct. 20
BYU is no longer ranked after consecutive losses to Utah and Boise State, but the Cougars have one of the best defenses in the country.
Through five weeks, BYU has only allowed 10 points per game, good for fourth best in the nation.
This game should remind people of the Alabama-LSU matchups from last season and the winning side might not even reach double-digits. One mistake in this contest could cost either team the game.
2. At Oklahoma, Oct. 27
Although the Sooners continued their recent trend of losing home games they should win, this is still one of the top teams in the country.
Few quarterbacks are better than Landry Jones, but the Irish need to jump on any mistake that he makes.
Notre Dame has already proved with the win over Michigan State that it is capable of winning tough games on the road, but it will need to repeat this feat in a tough environment in Norman.
1. At USC, Nov. 24
It is amazing how often this game has national implications. USC has already blown its perfect season with a loss at Stanford, but the Trojans can still play for a BCS title if it runs the table.
If Notre Dame remains undefeated to this point, it could be one of the best matchups of the year.
The Trojans have won nine of the last 10 matchups in this rivalry, but the Irish were the victors the last time the two played in Los Angeles.
This will be a great battle between offense and defense, and it should be a delight to watch regardless of which team comes out ahead.
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