Is Notre Dame’s 2013 Schedule The Nation’s Hardest?

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:

ndschedule

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.

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  • trey

    I think after last tear, this one will be much less difficult. SC is on a negative trajectory, scUM will be decimated losing shoelaces, and the rest seems very manageable. ASU and AFA might be trap games, but not classically so. I think we can win 10 of these with certainty

  • Terry

    I say 11-1 – Stanford.

    Possibly 10-2 – Michigan.

    There’s a lot of tough teams that we have to play, and there are 12 teams with a touch team on their schedule – Notre Dame. We’re back. I think we’ll be in the top 5 next season.

  • starkruzr

    This season is easier than last, but not by much.

    I also think 11-1, we drop one to Oklahoma at home this time.

  • Gmoney321

    Playing in a bowl game isn’t a measure of strength of schedule. If the bowl structure was set up like it was in 1969 when Notre Dame returned to the bowl scene it would be a different story. As of now, I’ll say the window is open between 7-5 and 12-0. Last year’s team dominated Oklahoma who was one dimensional and struggled in 5 games. Can you count on the opposing coaches making the same mistakes again?

    • trey

      OK is also losing it’s 4-year starting QB this season and ND is monumentally better than it was last October when the game was played. Can you count on ND not being more in control this time around?

  • canuck75

    Great to talk some football. I am not a baseball fan so really hate the nonstop baseball highlights that run from now till Oct.
    Grantland, your main point is 100% right on. Its not your toughest games, but the second tier games against good opponents, like BYU, Pitt, Arizona State.
    I watched Pitt absolutely crush Va Tech last year, then play great against us, then crush Rutgers. They were a very good team with consistency problems, not a mediocre team that “exposed” us.
    Independently, we need to take another step and pound Michigan or USC, not just win nicely.
    Can’t wait.

    • trey

      BLASPHEMY, sir! I dislike you now, ;-)

  • Terry

    Gmoney – you reminded me of a story from back then. In the fall of 1969 Notre Dame announced that it was dropping its 43 year policy of no bowls after the football season. The Chicago Tribune sent a sports reporter to the campus to do a story on student reaction to this momentous news. One of the pictures taken – and published throughout the country – was one of a student looking at the headline and he was wearing American flag pants.

    Reaction was immediate and ardent – about 98% against the guy.

  • Terry

    I can easily imagine how some of you youngsters can occasionally get annoyed by stories or reminiscences by some of us old farts, but – we’re part of this too.

    To some of you Ara is just a legend, to us he is a memory.

    To some of you Moose Krause is just a legend, to us he is a memory – he was the last real connection between Knute Rockne and the present.

    This ‘Notre Dame’ goes back way beyond the memories of the oldest of us.

    You young whipper-snappers are just the latest chapter of this ongoing story.

    Remember that, honor it, think about it, welcome the newest arrivals and when you get to be old farts – remember your predecessors. When you watch a home game on TV remember that “I SAT THERE WHEN WE SANG THE ALMA MATER”.

    The next chapter is coming

  • HURLS

    Gentlemen…It’s April. Barely. Injuries will happen. Players will be dumb and break rules as well as bones. Even players will rise from nowhere. As the expression goes: “stuff happens.” (PG-version) Making predictions at this point of time is ridiculous. 12-1, again. OK, I’m ridiculous…ly PRO-IRISH! GO IRISH – BEAT WOLVERINAS.