Okay, so we held out for as long as we could — we made it to April before starting to discuss Notre Dame’s 2013 football schedule. We’ll certainly have a number of pieces on this year’s upcoming slate throughout the offseason, so we’ll just get our feet wet a little bit here, but let’s get this out of the way immediately — 2013 will not present an easy set of opponents. Here’s just a look at our schedule, from UND.com:
So yeah, a lot of the usual cast of characters, but Temple and Arizona State add some new flavor to the mix — and quite honestly, it’s really not that often that we play Oklahoma even though we did last season. Of the teams on this year’s schedule, three of them finished in the AP Top 25 to finish last season: Stanford 7th, Oklahoma 15th, and Michigan 24th.
But as I’ll argue time and time again, the real difficulty of college football scheduling is NOT just getting up to beat the hard teams in big games — we see big, crazy upsets every week of the season. No, the true difficulty lies in being able to stay “up” for tough games each and every week, especially after emotional games. In 2012, we saw that the Irish were able to take teams’ best shots each and every week and remain unscathed — if they want to make another national championship appearance, they will have to do it against another similarly tough gauntlet.
Phil Steele, the wonderful college football statistician, compiled an excellent list of teams 2013 schedules, ranking them solely in order of how many teams that they will face that went to bowl games last season — spoiler, Notre Dame faces the most of any team (tied with Oklahoma and Kansas), facing 11 foes that played in bowls several months ago.
Here’s a few other not-so-randomly selected schools and how they stack up:
Oklahoma – 11
Pittsburgh – 9
Stanford, Michigan, BYU, Purdue, Arizona St – 8
USC, Navy – 7
Temple, Michigan St, Air Force – 6
Alabama – 5
My biggest takeaway from these is that Notre Dame continues to challenge itself as much, if not more, than any other team in the country, which is something I am a big fan of. It certainly presents us with a big challenge because we don’t give ourselves much opportunity to survive a letdown performance, but I think we’d prefer to just avoid those altogether (much easier said than done, obviously). Regardless, without even digging into the schedule much at all, we can see that there’s another tough road ahead.