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After last season's successful run through the regular season, it's probably safe to say that Notre Dame is back to being a relevant college football program these days. But all that could come crashing down before the month of September is finished.
Notre Dame usually manages to put together one of the nation's most entertaining, not to mention difficult schedules. The 2013 season is no different, and September again looks to be a gauntlet of potential landmines for the Irish.
After hosting Temple on August 31, the Irish travel to Ann Arbor for another clash at the Big House with the Wolverines under the lights. In just the second-ever scheduled night game at Michigan Stadium, the 2013 edition is shaping up to be just as thrilling as the first edition back in 2011.
Both teams will be chasing BCS berths this season, and a Week 2 battle between Michigan and Notre Dame—a soon-to-end annual rivalry—will be a major boost towards that goal of whichever team emerges with a victory.
Brady Hoke's comments this summer about Notre Dame's decision to not renew the contract should also provide a little fuel to the fire.
But even if Notre Dame is the team that wins, the September struggle isn't over. The rivalry with Michigan State—which will continue on an annual basis—will see it's typical late September meeting when the Spartans come to South Bend.
While Notre Dame certainly got the better of an over-matched MSU squad last season, the history of this series has seen the visiting team win eight of the last 13 meetings. There's also an argument to be made that Michigan State isn't quite as bad as its 7-6 record bore out last season. Five of those losses were by a combined 13 points, none of which was by more than four.
The lone other loss? A 17-point loss in East Lansing to Notre Dame.
Finally, Notre Dame finishes up September with a visit from Oklahoma. After embarrassing the Sooners on their home field last fall, you can bet Oklahoma is going to be out for some revenge. Oklahoma, however, returns just five defensive starters to a team that had trouble stopping Notre Dame last year.
The Irish have their own offensive holes to fill. Quarterback Everett Golson was dismissed from Notre Dame for undisclosed academic reasons. Golson has since admitted to "poor academic judgment," but has consistently vowed a return to Notre Dame—a vow that has notably not been dismissed by Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly—leaving open the possibility of Golson's return in 2014.
Kelly does have experience in Tommy Rees, who will take over the starting job once again come this fall. Rees, a senior, once held the starting job and saw plenty of relief action in 2012 during Notre Dame's run to the BCS National Championship Game.
Speaking of which, if Notre Dame managed somehow to finish September with a 5-0 record, another run to the BCS title game isn't out of the question.
But with a pair of rivalry games and a visit from Oklahoma all popping up in September, Notre Dame leads our list of powerhouses in danger of losing at least one game in September.
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