It’s no secret: Notre Dame’s 2012 football schedule is absolutely brutal. Many fans are predicting that the Irish could be significantly better than last year’s 8-5 team yet still win only 7-8 games. While I certainly disagree with this (the season outlook is much more optimistic than people are making it seem), I can’t ignore that the overall difficulty of the schedule isn’t a huge storyline.
However, it isn’t the only storyline to pay attention to. Here are several other schedule-related stories worth a look:
Time-Traveling to Ireland
The Fighting Irish open the 2012 slate in Dublin, Ireland, something that other players across the country have to be envious of. What they won’t be envious of though, is the jet lag that the Notre Dame players will have to deal with on the way back. The time difference is five hours, but with only a week to prepare for Purdue (on top of a full schedule of classes), don’t be surprised if the Irish have a sluggish start September 8th.
Finishing Off Michigan
This year’s Notre Dame seniors have never beaten the Wolverines. In 2009, they lost with eleven seconds left on the clock. In 2010, the Irish crumbled with twenty-seven seconds left. And in last year’s epic battle, Notre Dame fell with two seconds remaining. In all three games, Notre Dame felt like it had the game won and let it slip. Can the Irish hold on this year under the lights?
Getting Through September
Notre Dame has only gone undefeated in September once in the past decade — and that was in 2002 under Tyrone Willingham. Playing Navy, Purdue, Michigan State, and Michigan out of the gate isn’t easy, but if the Irish can get through the first month, their momentum will be hard to stop.
Brian Kelly Year 3
It has been well-documented that past Irish coaches have done pretty well in their third year leading the program. The pressure is going to ramp up on Coach Kelly to start winning, and winning big.
The Wrath of BYU
Notre Dame is the leading Catholic institution in the country. The same can be said about Brigham Young when it comes to Mormonism. But the Irish stole recruit Chris Badger (a Provo, Utah native no less) from the Cougars in 2010, and now he is returning to school from a two-year Mormon mission. BYU fans still complain about this, and will attempt to get their revenge on the field in late October.
Playing Spoiler For USC
The University of Southern California is fresh off its NCAA sanctions and returns to bowl eligibility. Conveniently enough for the Trojans, they are ranked No. 3 in the preseason Coaches Poll and have another national title on their minds. In Notre Dame’s last regular season game, the Irish travel to Los Angeles to face the Trojans in the Coliseum. Can the Irish knock them off of their high-horse?