Notre Dame Football Schedule: Will Fighting Irish Run the Table?
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With four games to go, Notre Dame has an undefeated season in its sights, and all signs point to it accomplishing it for the first time since 1988.
The Fighting Irish were good in every aspect of Saturday's 30-13 win over Oklahoma. The only noticeable weaknesses were in the pass defense that gave up 364 yards through the air.
Led again by Manti Te'o (11 tackles, one interception, one sack), the Irish defense held down a Sooner team that averaged 44.6 points entering the game. The 13 points was also the lowest scored by the Sooners all season.
On offense, the Irish had the running game going with 221 rushing yards split between Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood and Everett Golson. Golson also had 177 yards passing on 13 completions to six receivers.
Throw in there one penalty for five yards, and you have the makings of everything Notre Dame did.
Given this performance, will the Irish run the table?
Let's take a look at the rest of their schedule.
Vs. Pittsburgh (Nov. 3)
Tyler Eifert had eight catches against Pittsburgh last year.
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The Pittsburgh Panthers have largely struggled this year with a record of 4-4.
The Panthers have a decent passing attack behind QB Tino Sunseri, who has thrown for 2,199 yards and 13 touchdowns. Running backs Ray Graham (622 yards, seven touchdowns) and Rushel Shell (441 yards, four touchdowns) have also had success this year.
The Panthers realize this game cannot only make their season but ruin Notre Dame's.
The first key to the game will be how well Pittsburgh's front seven handles the Notre Dame rushing attack. After that, the Pittsburgh offense has to know where Te'o is at on the field at all times. He has the ability to change the game every play.
If Pittsburgh can do that, then it could pull the upset.
The Irish have won two straight over Pittsburgh. Last year, the Irish beat Pittsburgh 15-12. Tyler Eifert led the way with eight receptions for 75 yards, including the game-winning touchdown.
Prediction: No way Pittsburgh pulls the upset. Notre Dame wins by at least two touchdowns.
At Boston College (Nov. 10)
TJ Jones had 42 receiving yards against Boston College last year.
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The Fighting Irish will enter the game with the Boston College Eagles with a 9-0 record. The Eagles currently sit at 2-6 with their only wins coming over Maryland and Maine.
When looking at the stats, Boston College has struggled all year on both sides of the ball. It currently ranks 121st in rushing yards per game (82.5) and 94th in both points scored (23.1) and points allowed (31.3) per game.
The one area in which they are finding some success is the passing game; the Eagles average 279.3 yards per game through the air.
On the other side of the ball, Boston College's run defense is the third-worst in the nation, allowing 246.8 yards per game.
Last year, Notre Dame squeaked out a 16-14 win.
The Eagles are down as well this year and are no match for Notre Dame's front seven on offense. The Irish will win this game by at least 17 points.
Vs. Wake Forrest (Nov. 17)
Notre Dame beat Wake Forest last year, 24-17.
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The Wake Forest Demon Deacons are another team which has struggled this year, having gone 4-4 so far.
In its four wins this year, Wake Forest has been largely unimpressive. After beating Liberty (20-17) to open the season, they also chalked up wins against North Carolina (28-27), Army (49-37) and Virginia (16-10).
Their rankings (via espn.com) among FBS schools are even worse than that of Boston College's.
Per game, the Demon Deacons are 92nd in passing yards (201), 112th in rushing yards (111.9), 103rd in points scored (20.9) and 79th in points allowed (29.8).
To say Wake Forest is lucky to be 4-4 would be an understatement.
Notre Dame will have no problem ramming the ball down the Demon Deacons throats. The defense is weak in all phases, and Notre Dame should dominate.
Last year, Notre Dame beat Wake Forest 24-17.
As stated before, this is a no-brainer pick for Notre Dame. The Irish should win by four or more touchdowns, as Wake Forest won't put up a fight.
At USC (Nov. 24)
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When it comes to Notre Dame football, there are no bigger games than the one against the USC Trojans.
For the Irish, they'll come into the game undefeated and one game away from a possible berth in the BCS National Championship Game.
All they have to do is beat the Trojans.
USC has lost two games this year, making many observers scratch their heads. This team is loaded on both sides of the ball and were favorites for the national title entering the year.
The Trojans are led by quarterback Matt Barkley, who has 2,266 passing yards and 25 touchdowns this season. Add in running back Silas Redd (640 yards, seven touchdowns) and receivers Marqise Lee (1,129 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Robert Woods (585 yards, nine touchdowns), and you've got a dominant offensive group.
On defense, the Trojans let Saturday's game against Arizona slip away from them, giving up 39 points. Add in the game still to be played against Oregon, and the Trojans will come into the final game of the season mad.
Last year, the Trojans owned the Irish, winning 31-17.
There's no way the Trojans are going to allow the Irish to finish an undefeated season on their watch. Since they can't make it to the championship game, they're not going to allow Notre Dame to do so. USC will win this tightly contested game by a field goal.
So where does this leave the Irish in terms of a bowl?
BCS Bowl Game
Even with one loss, Notre Dame will still make a BCS bowl game.
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Despite losing its final game of the season, Notre Dame will still make it to a BCS bowl game.
The Irish's likely destination will be the Fiesta Bowl, where it will play the Kansas State Wildcats. The Wildcats will be left on the outside looking in, as Alabama and Oregon should run the table.
Although finishing the season with the loss to USC will be a major disappointment to Notre Dame, it would have been unlikely that they would have gained entry to the BCS National Championship Game had Alabama and Oregon also gone undefeated.
Both played a tougher schedule and are scoring in bunches.
Still, for the Irish, a BCS bowl is nothing to sneeze at. After struggling mightily over the last few years, a bowl appearance is something on which Notre Dame can build its future.