Who is the Toughest Opponent Left on Notre Dames Schedule

(Win projections via ESPN)

Notre Dame is currently sitting at 6-0 and has been moving through the schedule this season. Even with what looked like the toughest part of the schedule, it won’t be a breeze to the end. Lets look at what the Irish have to face in the coming weeks.

Pittsburgh 95.5% Win Projection

I covered this game in depth both here Keys to Irish Success Vs Pitt and here Pitt Panthers Preview. There isn’t much more I can add other then I feel the projection is too high. I know that someone much smarter then me did the math on this but Pitt considers this a rivalry and they would like nothing more then knocking off the Irish. I think the Irish win convincingly but the win probability just feels like something could go wrong. Then again Pitt did get blown out by UCF.

Navy 97.9% Win Projection

Another projection that feels too high because of the triple option and the headaches it brings. Notre Dame is 7-3 in the last 10 but it hasn’t been pretty the last few times the two have met. Navy is a team running an offense from decades ago and that’s why it works. You don’t get to prepare for it and like Georgia Tech, Navy does it very well. This game will take place in San Diego which adds in a wrinkle with the long travel but Navy is also coming from the East coast. Navy has struggled this season with a good win over Memphis but that is about it. Memphis also has one of the weakest strength of schedules so I don’t really know what to make of them. Navy’s head coach Ken Niumatalolo is one of the best at what he does in this offense so they will always be prepared. Unfortunately for them it won’t be enough.

@Northwestern 77.6% Win Percentage

Northwestern could be the scariest or most tame game remaining. They lost to Akron then took Michigan to the final minutes and followed that up by beating Michigan State. What do you make of a team that all over the place. You can chalk it up to a bad day against Akron but they also have a two touchdown loss to Duke. Pat Fitzgerld is a solid coach and was at the helm when they upset Notre Dame in 2014. Year in and year out Northwestern is a middle of the road team. This will come down to not letting them hang around. If the Irish impose their will early, you don’t let them hang around like they did with Michigan. Michigan came out slow and let Northwestern build momentum. Northwestern isn’t a world beater but they do have enough talent to make you pay if you don’t show up. Kelly has this team playing better since Book took over. As long as they don’t slip into the old Irish way, this game won’t be an issue. Northwestern is OK, just don’t make them look great.

Florida State 91.2% Win Percentage

Florida State is a team that worries me this season and where I can see Notre Dame suffering the first loss of the season. Willie Taggert has taken over since Jimbo Fischer left and things have not gone well. In his first season the Seminoles have struggled and suffered a brutal loss to Syracuse earlier in the season. After getting dragged by the Orange, Florida State has turned a bit of a corner. They had a one point loss to Miami and beat a Louisville team that has been struggling a bit this year. The scary thing about Florida State is the amount of talent on the team. While they struggled early, they seem to be starting to come around to Taggert’s new system as the season moves along. Just like Virginia Tech, they might be struggling but there is serious talent on the roster. This all feels like a game Notre Dame would lose in the past and I’m still trying to adjust to this new look Irish team. On paper, Notre Dame should roll at home and get Kelly his first win against Florida St. Underestimate them and Kelly could just as easily fall to 0-3

Syracuse 81.7% Win Percentage

Syracuse was taking college football by storm until they ran into the buzz saw that is the Pittsburgh Panthers. But seriously, the Orange have talent this season and Dabo Babers has turned this team around. QB Eric Dungey is athletic an player who doesn’t throw the ball great but gets it done. He works well in Babers high tempo offense that runs between 60-70 plays a game. The issue is his struggle to stay healthy and putting up big numbers against athletic defenses. This is what will be the Achilles Heel of the Orange. The Irish have a defense as good as any and the defensive line will cause issues all day for Syracuse. Take away their running game and it won’t matter how many plays they run. The offense will stall out and the Irish will walk away with a victory.

@USC 69.8% Win Percentage

Gun to my head, this is the game I would say the Irish lose if I had to pick one. It is in Southern California and it is USC, what else is there to say. Notre Dame is 5-5 in the last ten and the last four games have been split between the two. On paper this game should not be a contest. Lost to Stanford, run over by Texas and the offense doesn’t seem to be clicking since Darnold left. If this wasn’t a rival and across the country, I wouldn’t think twice. The Irish have a defense to shutdown the Trojan offense and the Irish offense has real firepower. This just falls into that old Notre Dame fan mentality. The Irish should be undefeated in prime time with a playoff spot on the line. I guess I am always waiting for that other shoe to drop. Outside of being a tough game year in and out I can’t give you a reason the Irish won’t win. My final prediction is an undefeated season but ESPN made the right call rating this game where it is.

Let us know what you think below and follow us on Twitter for all things Irish @casualfball

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