The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are a pretty good college football team. The return of Everett Golson has seen the offense perform efficiently and the defense has been playing very well at the start of the season despite losing some key players to the NFL. With a top 10 ranking and a clean 4-0 record, the playoff whispers are starting to gain some traction for the Golden Domers, but the real opportunity to state a case will begin this week. Notre Dame is about to embark on the biggest three-game stretch of the year. If they get through these next three games without a loss, watch out. The more likely scenario is probably going to result in Notre Dame being brought back to earth.
Notre Dame hosts Stanford this weekend in South Bend. The Cardinal have suffered just one loss this season, a game David Shaw‘s team uncharacteristically handed to USC. After shutting down Washington on the road this past weekend, Stanford will bring the nation’s top-ranked defense to Notre Dame Stadium. They will do so with the sting of a loss from two seasons ago still fresh. Stanford has allowed an average of 198.0 yards per game. That is a ridiculous number after four games, including two against Pac-12 schools. Stanford will bring Notre Dame’s stiffest challenge of the season, as far as defense is concerned.
If Notre Dame can manage to get by Stanford, they will then host a UNC team that has been exposed on defense the past couple of weeks. Larry Fedora‘s Tar Heels have given up 120 points the past two weeks in losses to East Carolina and Clemson. UNC could arrive in South Bend riding a three-game losing streak if they struggle this week against Virginia Tech. This game looked a bit more challenging at the start of the season, and still could pose some problems if UNC makes some changes, but all eyes will be on the following week.
Notre Dame heads to Florida State on October 18. The top-ranked Seminoles have had some close calls in ACC play the past two weeks but they have managed to get by with the maturity and confidence a defending national champion carries. Florida State should get to the home game against the Irish without a loss. Florida State hosts Wake Forest this week and visits Syracuse next week before the Notre Dame game.
While nobody really knows just who is in the playoff mix yet, it is probably safe to say Notre Dame will need to get through the next three games with a 2-1 record to make a case. Do that and then we’ll talk about the Irish.