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Ranking Notre Dame’s remaining schedule

| Friday, September 23, 2022

Before the season started, the Observer Sports Staff ranked the toughest games on the Irish schedule. It is apparent now that Marshall was severely underrated in those rankings. Nevertheless, after three games, the remaining schedule ranks fairly similar to what the preseason rankings were. Let’s take a look at the remaining nine opponents the Irish will face this season.

1. USC (Record: 3-0, AP Rank: 7)

The Trojans have arguably been the biggest surprise in college football this season. Many, including myself, assumed that the Trojans would need time to adjust to Lincoln Riley’s air-raid attack style of offense, but that transition has been nothing but smooth so far. The Trojans have plenty of talent at the skill positions. They are led by three players from the transfer portal: quarterback Caleb Williams, wide receiver Jordan Addison and running back Travis Dye. Addison has been a beast for the Trojans. He posted five touchdowns and nearly 300 receiving yards in USC’s first three games. The Trojans have only played Rice, Stanford and Fresno State this season, but with an easy PAC-12 schedule, it would be shocking if the Trojans have more than one loss when they play the Irish at the end of the season

Key to Irish victory: 

The Irish need to win this one in the trenches. The Trojans have what the Irish don’t: a prolific offense that revolves around a top-tier quarterback and a plethora of wide receiving talent. The Irish defensive line has to improve as the season goes. They must find a way to put pressure on Caleb Wiliams. On the offensive side of the ball, the Irish need to hope the offensive line continues to improve and they need to establish the run game. Similarly to the strategy against Ohio State, the Irish will need to do their best to keep the ball out of Caleb Williams’ hands as long as possible.

2. Clemson (Record: 3-0. AP Rank: 5)

There has been surprisingly very little talk surrounding the Tigers so far this season. Although they only have wins against Georgia Tech, Furman and Louisiana Tech, the Tigers have won all of those games fairly handily. The key to the Tigers’ success has been running back Will Shipley, who has six touchdowns on the season and is averaging 7.8 yards per carry. Quarterback D.J. Uiagelelei looks to be much improved as well, having completed 64.8% of his passes for 662 yards and five touchdowns. The Tigers are anchored by a solid defensive corps as well that has already forced seven turnovers this season. Despite the lack of national attention, this Clemson squad feels similar to their national title teams from a couple of seasons ago.

Key to Irish victory:

This game is below the USC game because of the home atmosphere. Although the Irish fell at home to Marshall a couple of weeks ago, Notre Dame Stadium is going to be fired up for a game against Clemson. The Irish need to stop Uiagelelei’s production in this game. When Uiagelelei played in Notre Dame Stadium in place of Trevor Lawrence in 2020, he tore apart the Irish defense and nearly gave the Tigers the victory. The Irish defense can survive some long runs by Shipley, but they will have to limit the Tigers’ quarterback production if the Notre Dame offense is going to keep up with Clemson.

3. BYU (Record: 2-1, AP Rank: 19)

BYU was riding high after their double-overtime victory over Baylor two weeks ago, but last week’s 41-20 loss to Oregon brought the Cougars back down to earth. Quarterback Jaren Hall has been the centerpiece of a balanced BYU offense that has averaged 4.9 yards per carry on the ground and averaged nearly 300 passing yards a game. On the defensive side of the ball, the Cougars must regroup after last week’s disaster against Oregon. In that game, the big play destroyed the Cougars, as they allowed 227 passing yards off of just 14 completions. BYU has two very winnable games ahead of their matchup against Notre Dame, so it is likely BYU comes into the Shamrock Series game as a top-15 team.

Key to Irish victory: 

BYU’s defensive weakness appears to be the big play, which doesn’t bode well for an Irish offense that has failed to produce many big plays all season. In order to win the game, the Irish need to contain Hall’s production and limit wide receiver Chase Roberts, who has 223 receiving yards on the season.

4. UNC (Record: 3-0, AP Rank: RV)

The Tar Heels have a 3-0 record, but it has been anything but pretty. After squeaking out a victory against Appalachian State in their second game, they beat Georgia State by only one touchdown the following week. The Tar Heels have a prolific offense that is led by freshman Drake Maye. Their defense will need to improve going forward though if they are going to compete in the ACC.

Key to Irish victory:

The Irish have to keep pace with UNC’s offense. They will need to get into an offensive rhythm against a subpar UNC defense. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Drew Pyne will need to step up and make some plays downfield.

5. Syracuse (Record 3-0, AP Rank: RV)

The Orange are a somewhat surprising 3-0 after dismantling Louisville 31-7 in week one. In week two, they beat Purdue on a last-minute play last weekend. Quarterback Garrett Shrader has completed 66.2% of his passes with eight touchdowns and he has yet to throw an interception.

Key to Irish victory: 

The Irish secondary will have to step up against Syracuse’s passing attack. Graduate student safety Brandon Joseph will have to lead the way, but others must step up as well if the Irish are to get a win in the Carrier Dome.

6. Boston College (Record 1-2, AP Rank: NR)

The Eagles were stunned by Rutgers in the opening game of the season, and they also suffered a 17-point loss to Virginia Tech in week two. The Eagles have struggled to generate much of any offense this season.

Key to Irish victory:

Notre Dame transfer Phil Jurkovec will be out to prove himself on Senior Day. The Irish will have to keep him in check if they are going to avoid a Senior Day disaster.

7. Stanford (Record 1-1, AP Rank: NR)

The Cardinal destroyed Colgate in the first game of the season but fell flat in a 41-28 loss to USC. Quarterback Tanner McKee has as many interceptions as touchdowns and he will have to improve going forward if the Cardinal are going to compete in the PAC-12 this season.

Key to Irish victory:

This is a classic rivalry game and if the Irish get fired up to play under the lights at Notre Dame Stadium, this one shouldn’t be a problem.

8. UNLV (Record 2-1, AP Rank: NR)

UNLV has wins over Idaho State and North Texas with their sole loss being to Cal. Quarterback Doug Brumfield has been spectacular this season, completing 70.6% of his passes for seven touchdowns.

Key to Irish victory:

The Irish beat themselves in their stunning loss to Marshall. If they play even somewhat decently and limit their mistakes, they should have no problem against UNLV.

9. Navy (Record 0-2, AP Rank: NR)

The Midshipmen have been atrocious this season, having scored just 20 points in their first two games. They are averaging just 3.3 yards per carry, which is not nearly enough in a triple offense attack. 

Key to Irish victory:

The triple offense attack has been far from successful for the Midshipmen this season. The Irish will have to keep it that way and prevent Navy from having long, time-consuming drives.

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About Nate Moller

Nate is a junior majoring in chemical engineering. He is originally from a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota and is currently living in Siegfried Hall. Some of his passions include running, cross country skiing, and getting too worked up about Notre Dame and Minnesota sports teams.

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