One of the reasons why Notre Dame was considered a preseason top 10 team in 2016 was the schedule seemed to set up favorably.
First, Michigan State and Stanford were both “rebuilding” and had to visit Notre Dame. Second, there were only three on-campus road games (Texas, North Carolina State and USC, well spread out).
Third, other than USC in the finale, there was no one on the schedule the Fighting Irish were considered inferior to talent wise. In fact, the lone team in the first six games that would finish with a winning record would be 7-6 NC State.
The record of Notre Dame’s 2016 football opponents was 83-70 for a .542 percentage. The first six finished 27-46 (.369) while the second six were 56-24 (.700). The Fighting Irish were 2-4 in the first half and also 2-4 in the second half.
Still, four did finish in the Associated Press top 25: No. 3 USC (10-3 with nine straight wins to cap the year), No. 12 Stanford (10-3), No. 16 Virginia Tech (10-4) and No. 20 Miami (9-4). Only Virginia Tech does not return on the schedule in 2017.
On the other hand, Notre Dame lost to five teams that did not finish ranked: 5-7 Texas, 3-9 Michigan State, 4-8 Duke, 7-6 North Carolina State and 9-5 Navy. That is the second most for the Irish in one season, behind the six during the 3-9 campaign in 2007.
Here is a quick peek at the 2017 foes, which we will update more in the coming month(s).
Sept. 2: Temple (10-4)
Owls are coming off first back-to-back 10-win seasons in school history, but head coach Matt Rhule is now at Baylor. Replacing him is 2015-16 Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins.
Sept. 9: Georgia (8-5)
Second-year head coach Kirby Smart returns sophomore Jacob Eason at quarterback and the dynamic running duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, who combined for 1,970 yards rushing in 2016. Star outside linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy also opted to return. The up-and-down season ended with a 31-23 Liberty Bowl win versus TCU.
Sept. 16: at Boston College (7-6)
Under former 1999-2001 Notre Dame assistant Steve Addazio the Eagles have gone 7-6, 7-6, 3-9 and 7-6, but they have a nasty history of playing their best versus the Irish, including the 19-16 loss in 2015 when the Eagles were only 3-9.
Sept. 23: at Michigan State (3-9)
After a 65-16 mark from 2010-15 and three straight Top-6 finishes in the Associated Press from 2013-15, the Spartans’ 2016 meltdown was stunning. Still, one of the wins was at Notre Dame.
Sept. 30: Miami (Ohio) (6-7)
Former Notre Dame/Brian Kelly assistant Chuck Martin (2010-13) led the NCAA’s first ever regular season mark of 6-6 after starting 0-6, but lost a 17-16 heartbreaker to Mississippi State in the bowl.
Oct. 7: at North Carolina (8-5)
Quarterback Mitch Trubisky and running back Elijah Hood both opted to turn pro. The Tar Heels lost three of their last four, falling to Duke (28-27), NC State (28-21) and then Stanford (25-23) in the Sun Bowl.
Oct. 21: USC (10-3)
Nine-game winning streak to end the season was highlighted by first Rose Bowl victory since 2008 campaign. Lot of talent lost on offense, but quarterback Sam Darnold will be in the Heisman conversation and the No. 1 recruiting class from 2015 will now be juniors.
Oct. 28: North Carolina State (7-6)
Entering his fifth season, head coach Dave Doeren is 25-26, and his biggest victory might have been the 10-3 fiasco versus Notre Dame during Hurricane Matthew this past season.
Nov. 5: Wake Forest (7-6)
First-year Fighting Irish defensive coordinator Mike Elko was a major reason why the Demon Deacons were able to achieve their first bowl win (versus Temple) and finish above. 500 since 2008.
Nov. 12: at Miami (9-4)
Quarterback Brad Kaaya left early for the NFL, but head coach Mark Richt’s debut at his alma mater finished 5-0 after 30-27 loss to Irish, highlighted by 31-14 thumping of West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Nov. 19: Navy (9-5)
Midshipmen finished with a three-game losing streak, and the first setback to Army since 2001. However, Navy has consistently become a tough out for Notre Dame, including a 28-27 win in 2016.
Nov. 26: at Stanford (10-3)
The Cardinal posted their sixth double digit win total in seven years. Running back Christian McCaffrey and defensive end Solomon Thomas both turned pro early. Stanford is 6-2 versus the Irish in the last eight meetings since 2009 and have not lost at home to them since 2007.
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