Even after dominating Rice in the season opener, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will be hard-pressed to qualify for the inaugural college football playoff this season. Boasting one of the toughest schedules in the FBS, Brian Kelly’s Irish certainly have their work cut out for them.
The Domers will play five preseason AP ranked teams over the course of their 12 game schedule. Look for the Irish to continue their hot start on the back of returning quarterback Everett Golson, as they will play home games against unranked Michigan and Purdue over the next few weeks. The Sept. 6 game against Michigan is one to note, as it will be the final scheduled meeting between the Wolverines and Irish, bringing a historic rivalry to a close. The Wolverines dominated Appalachian State just as ND thrashed Rice earlier today, and both teams appear poised to win the final meeting. Though it will likely be a close game, I look for ND to ultimately get the win at home. The Purdue game will be the annual Shamrock Series game for Notre Dame, this year held at Lucas Oil Stadium; once more, I expect Notre Dame to win.
ND will then travel to Syracuse, another likely win for the Irish. If they are to have any shot at all at a playoff berth, the Irish will need to be 4-0 after the Syracuse game, as they will then come home to play No. 11 Stanford and No. 23 North Carolina. Both teams will give Notre Dame fits, especially given the suspensions of starters DaVaris Daniels, KeiVarae Russell, Ishaq Williams and Kendall Moore. My guess is ND comes out with a victory against the Tar Heels, but falls to the Cardinal.
Next comes the biggest game of the season, as ND travels to Tallahassee to play defending Heisman winner Jameis Winston and his reigning national champion Florida State Seminoles. That is an almost certain loss for Kelly’s crew, as the Seminoles are a much more talented group, and they will have home field advantage.
The final five games of the schedule include likely wins at Navy and at home against Lousiville and Northwestern. However, there are two tough matchups at No. 19 Arizona State and No. 15 USC looming afterward. I am counting on ND to get the job done against Arizona State, who I think will struggle in the Pac 12 this year, but I think they will fall against Steve Sarkisian and USC at the Coliseum.
Accordingly, my final prediction for ND this year is 9-3, an overall strong performance for a team with an extremely difficult schedule. It will be the type of year Kelly and company can build on as they look to the future.
Find the best ticket deals on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football schedule on TiqIQ.com.