Notre Dame Football: 5 Potential Losses on the 2012 Fighting Irish Schedule
Year in and year out, Notre Dame football fans fantasize about a "return to glory", with that glory being the promised land that is a BCS game.
Fans pick apart the upcoming schedule, penciling in double-digit victories for the Irish, a product of serious and unhealthy rationalization.
An interesting angle that many Fighting Irish fans don't typically care to take is which games the Irish are destined to lose. I'm not hoping that Brian Kelly and Co. will drop any decisions. Rather, I'm taking a realistic look at the 2012 schedule, a daunting one at the very least.
So for a closer view of which opposing teams have the best chance at knocking off Notre Dame, follow along.
Sept. 15 at Michigan State
While the Spartans are losing stud quarterback Kirk Cousins, starting receivers B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin, and defensive tackle Jerel Worthy, Mark Dantonio's squad is still dangerous.
Dantonio's defense will be an improved bunch from the 2011 version, which should be a scary thought for every opponent on the Spartans' schedule.
William Gholston and Marcus Rush will lead a furious pass rush for the "Spartan Dawgs", who will also have a rock solid secondary led by cornerbacks Darqueze Dennard and Johnny Adams.
Count in the fact that the Irish put a licking on Michigan State last season in South Bend, and you know that the Spartans will be a blood-thirsty group seeking revenge.
They'll have the luxury of doing so in their home stadium, too.
Last time I checked, Notre Dame hasn't fared well in Spartan Stadium in recent memory.
Sept. 22 vs. Michigan
You remember last season's matchup of these two schools, don't you? If you don't, I feel sorry for you.
The Wolverines pulled off one of the most memorable comebacks in years, battling back from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to take down Notre Dame in the first home night game in Michigan Stadium history.
Notre Dame has set this season's meeting as the lone home night game of the season, possibly in an effort to one-up the Wolverines from last season's debacle.
Beating Brady Hoke's squad won't be an easy task for the Irish, though.
Michigan returns quarterback Denard Robinson who has earned a reputation as a Notre Dame killer.
Robinson will also have the convenience of relying on a vastly improved defense that will be returning seven starters to get him back on the field quickly.
Don't forget about Michigan's 2012 recruiting class, which was ranked seventh nationally by ESPN.com.
That class, mixed with the talent already in place, could take the Wolverines on a return trip to the BCS.
Oct. 13 vs. Stanford
Stanford has won three consecutive games in the Battle for the Legends Trophy. That has to be strange for Notre Dame fans to hear, considering the Irish won seven straight games in the series from 2002 to 2008.
This season may be Brian Kelly's first true chance at knocking off the Cardinal. Yet, I'm forced to echo Lee Corso. "Not so fast, my friend."
Despite the fact that Stanford loses all-world quarterback Andrew Luck and a number of significant pieces on the offensive side of the ball, the Cardinal will reload due to the strong recruiting efforts of former head coach Jim Harbaugh, and continued by current head coach David Shaw.
Stanford's simple offensive attack allows for a fluid transition after losing starters, which leads many to believe that the Cardinal will be just fine without Luck and the other departed seniors.
Don't be surprised if Stanford pulls off the upset in South Bend.
Oct. 27 at Oklahoma
The Notre Dame defense will face its most difficult test of the season when the Fighting Irish travel to Norman to take on Bob Stoops' Oklahoma Sooners.
OU returns quarterback Landry Jones, receivers Jaz Reynolds, Kenny Stills and Trey Franks, as well as running backs Dominique Whaley, Roy Finch and Brennan Clay.
Those are more than enough weapons to hang at least 30 points-per-game on nearly any team in the nation.
The Irish will be in it if they can match the Sooners uptempo pace, something the Notre Dame defense has struggled against in recent years.
And Notre Dame will have to do it all at Memorial Stadium.
Nov. 27 at USC
As an adolescent during the early 2000's, I can guarantee you that the tears were flowing like waterfalls from my eyes when Notre Dame played USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
There are two particular games that have been burned into my memory, and continue to haunt me today. The first was a 44-13 USC victory on November 30, 2002, and the second was a 41-10 beat-down on November 27, 2004.
Those memories were pushed deep into my subconscious the last time Notre Dame took the field at the Coliseum, as the Irish pulled out at 20-16 victory over Lane Kiffin's Trojans in 2010.
Things won't be the same this season. Kiffin has his team as a preseason favorite to win the BCS National Championship.
That's horrifying news for Brian Kelly and Co., as this meeting could determine the Trojans' place in that illustrious game.