The 2012 schedule for Notre Dame was expected to be one of the toughest in the country. In May, Bruce Feldman said that Notre Dame had the most difficult lineup in college football.
What was the toughest schedule in the country molded into a cake walk virtually overnight. The Irish had a schedule loaded with Top 15 teams to start the year, but now their opponents are struggling to find bowl eligibility.
The preseason AP had the No. 1, No. 4, No. 8, No. 13 and No. 21 teams landing on the Notre Dame schedule. With 11 weeks of football behind us, the Irish now have four teams that remain ranked on the schedule, with no opponent listed in the Top 10.
Oklahoma and Stanford are the only teams that have faced Notre Dame that remain in the Top 15 of the BCS. A schedule that was littered with three Top 10 squads now has No. 12 Oklahoma as the highest ranked opponent.
USC was expected to take down the SEC in this year’s title game when the season began, and the Michigan vs. Michigan State game was supposed to determine the winner of the Big Ten.
An early October contest against an unranked but scrappy Miami team was expected to cause issues as it was a sleeper team in the ACC entering 2012. The Hurricanes are now limping to a 5-5 record, clawing for one more win and bowl eligibility.
Teams like Purdue and BYU were as good as expected, but that is mediocre at best.
Add in the way that Notre Dame has won its games and the questions begin to pile up about the abilities of this Irish team. They have won half of their games by seven points or less and three wins have come by only three points against severely overmatched competition.
Notre Dame did all it could to make its schedule as tough as possible, even avoiding a FCS school and a sure win when compiling the lineup. The Irish are one of the few FBS teams that did not schedule a lower tiered team this year.
Despite the valiant effort to toughen the road, the unpredictable 2012 season swallowed the Irish’s hopes at a title.
The Irish have done amazing work with their schedule no matter the final standing of the teams, but this schedule was supposed to be a positive edge for this Notre Dame squad if it was able to find the road to an undefeated season.
Notre Dame will finish the year in a BCS bowl game, but without a loss from Kansas State or Oregon the Irish will be the odd man out come January.