The upcoming Notre Dame football season is a momentous one for the school, program, and especially head coach Charlie Weis.
After a terrible 2007 and a disappointing 2008, the heat has been turned up. With the talent and experience coming back in August, expectations are high.
Here is a look at Notre Dame’s opponents ranked by the likelihood of an Irish victory:
At Washington State*
(*being played in San Antonio)
It would be hard for Notre Dame to find a worse BCS-conference opponent and there is nothing to be excited about if you are a fan of the Cougars. To make matters worse, the game will be the first of the reinstated annual “neutral” game for the Notre Dame where it is expected Irish fans will flood southern Texan city.
Likelihood of an Irish Victory: 95 percent
The Boilermakers face a ton of questions and are experimenting with a new head coach after the retirement of Joe Tiller. Purdue has fallen into the bottom tier of the Big Ten and will have to struggle to rebuild in 2009.
Victory: 88 percent
Washington could be Notre Dame’s easiest opponent, but the Irish will have to contend with quarterback Jake Locker under center this year. Locker, who may be the Pac-10’s best quarterback, will have to be sensational if Washington wants to turn the corner after a winless 2008.
Victory: 85 percent
Connecticut has turned itself into a respectable program but will have to reload after losing a handful of key players to the NFL, most notably running back Donald Brown. The Huskie defense will be solid, but the offense could struggle mightily against the Irish defense.
Victory: 75 percent
After losing to Navy two seasons ago and carelessly letting the Midshipmen back into the game last season, look for the Irish to come out strong against the Midshipmen in South Bend. As always, Navy will bring heart and a strong ground game, but there is too much size and talent on the other side of the field.
Victory: 70 percent
The Wolf Pack has one of the worst defenses in college football. Fortunately for them, they have the best player you’ve never heard of in dual-threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Nevada could very well give Notre Dame a run for its money to start of the season, so the Irish better be prepared for a fight. The first half may be close but expect Notre Dame to pull away late.
Victory: 68 percent
Jim Harbaugh has done a terrific job of rebuilding the Cardinal program and is ready to take Stanford to the next level. Still, the talent on The Farm is not elite and Stanford has a long way to become a contender. Notre Dame will travel to California to play its last game of the season and it may have enormous bowl implications.
Victory: 65 percent
Vs. Boston College
Due to the intense rivalry between these two schools, this game is rated much higher than it may turn out. The Eagles have a new coach and have lost a lot of talent. The Irish will take the field with more skill at every position and look to reverse the recent losing trend to BC.
Victory: 65 percent
Make no mistake about it, the Wolverines are still rebuilding and trying to adjust to Rich Rodriguez’s new offense. With question marks all over the field—the all important quarterback position—Michigan could have another rough season. Despite this, it’s never easy to win in the Big House and the Wolverines may have confidence early in the season.
Victory: 62 percent
Vs. Michigan State
Despite graduating key players and having to retool on the offensive side of the ball, the Spartans will be among the best teams in the Big Ten. Much like their contest against Boston College, the Irish will have to get over the stigma that Michigan State has their number. It has been a while since Notre Dame has beat the Spartans in Notre Dame Stadium.
Victory: 55 percent
The pre-season pick by many to win the Big East, Pittsburgh will be as tough of a defense Notre Dame may see all season. However, there are real questions on the offensive side of the ball, especially without running back LaSean McCoy carrying the load. Either way, it will be cold at Heinz Field and this game will be a battle.
Victory: 52 percent
It seems like ages since Notre Dame has defeated the Trojans. It won’t be a much easier task in 2009. USC did lose tremendous talent and will have to find a quarterback to lead their team, but expect them to be as good as always, especially if they defeat Ohio State early.
Victory: 35 percent