Blue and Gold Illustrated

June-July 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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54 JUNE/JULY 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED E very season we generally divide the Notre Dame football schedule into three tiers. This year it just happens to balance out into a trio of four teams apiece: TWO- TO FIVE-TOUCHDOWN FAVORITES The theme here is none of these foes has displayed any capability to stop anyone. 12. Bowling Green (3‑9 in 2018) Oct. 5 — New head coach Scot Loeffler inherits a squad that finished 124th out of 129 teams in scoring defense (40.0 points allowed per game), and he hired former Notre Dame coordinator Brian VanGorder (2014-16) to clean up the mess. VanGorder's Louisville unit fin- ished 127th in that category last year. More gasoline on the fire? 11. New Mexico (3‑9) Sept. 14 — Speaking of former Notre Dame coaches …1997-2001 Irish head coach Bob Davie returns to his former stomp- ing grounds. He led the moribund Lo- bos to consecutive bowls in 2015-16 while doing a fine job of rebuilding (9-4 in 2016), but now has had consecutive 3-9 campaigns. Though Davie's career has been built on defense, New Mexico was 113th in points allowed last season (36.2 per game), and his once vaunted rushing attack slipped to 88th in 2018. 10. at Louisville (2‑10) Sept. 2 — Former head coach Bobby Petrino left behind a grease fire for newly hired Scott Satterfield. As noted, the Car- dinals were 127th in scoring defense last year (surrendering 44.1 points per game) and tied for 121st in scor- ing offense (19.8 points a contest), the worst combination in the country. 9. Navy (3‑10) Nov. 16 — Head coach Ken Niumatalolo's program has taken steps back the past few seasons, while Army has become the new mili- tary power in the sport. Still, count on the Midshipmen to remain among the nation's top five rushing teams. POTENTIAL DOUBLE-DIGIT FAVORITES 8. at Duke (8‑5) Nov. 9 — Now in his 12th season, head coach David Cutcliffe already has pulled one upset on the Irish when his 4-8 Blue Devils won at 4-8 Notre Dame in 2016. This is a different Notre Dame operation now, and Wallace Wade Stadium has nowhere the intimidation factor of Cameron Indoor. Losing QB Daniel Jones to the NFL Draft hurts as well. 7. Boston College (7‑5) Nov. 23 — Head coach Steve Addazio's Ea- gles will be physical and will be a threat with running back AJ Dillon, who rushed for 2,697 yards and 24 touchdowns his first two seasons. This could be one of those 24-17 late- November games in the cold. 6. Virginia Tech (6‑7) Nov. 2 — Like Cutcliffe, head coach Justin Fuente also won at Notre Dame in 2016, but the Hokies endured some huge set- backs last season. Still, Virginia Tech will be coming off a bye Saturday, while the Irish will have a huge show- down at Michigan the week prior. 5. Virginia (8‑5) Sept. 28 — Last year my upset special was Pitt be- cause of the timing of the game (fol- lowing emotional contests versus Stanford and then Virginia Tech on the road), it was mid-term exams week and the Panthers had a procliv- ity for upsets. Notre Dame escaped with a 19-14 victory. This year my pick is Virginia, which has improved from 2-10 to 6-7 to 8-5 in head coach Bronco Men- denhall's first three seasons (and whipped South Carolina 28-0 in the Belk Bowl last year). It also boasts one of the better QBs Notre Dame will face in Bryce Perkins. The fact that Notre Dame plays at Georgia the week prior is the clincher. THE MARQUEE MATCHUPS 4. at Stanford (9‑4) Nov. 30 — The Cardinal remains a quality nine-win program under David Shaw, but it is not as power- ful as it was through the first half of the decade, especially on defense. Notre Dame has lost five straight at Stanford dat- ing back to 2009 — and has not won back-to-back regular-sea- son finales in California since the start of the USC/Stanford endings in 1999. Quarterback Kevin Costello does provide firepower. 3. USC (5‑7) Oct. 12 — The frac- tured Trojans still took Notre Dame to the wall in last year's regular-sea- son finale before losing 24-17. USC will boast the most explosive receiv- ers on the slate with Michael Pitt- man, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns, and it has a bye week prior to the Notre Dame game. The first six USC contests, though, might be the most brutal in the land with Fresno State, Stanford, at BYU, Utah, at Washington and at Notre Dame. By the time they arrive in northern Indiana, USC will either be steeled or falling apart. 2. at Michigan (10‑3) Oct. 26 — The bad news is Notre Dame is 1-7 in its last eight trips to Ann Arbor (four straight defeats since 2007), where goofy things tend to happen. The good news is it has a bye the week prior, while the Wolver- ines have to play at Penn State. 1. at Georgia (11‑3) Sept. 21 — Whichever team emerges victorious will have an early inside track into the College Football Playoff and maybe rank No. 3 in the country. The Bulldogs will attempt to become the first school to start 3-0 in its all-time series with Notre Dame since Iowa in 1940. ✦ The 2019 Schedule Is Equally Distributed THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI Senior Editor Lou Somogyi has been at Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 1985. He can be reached at Notre Dame is 1-7 in its last eight trips to Ann Arbor and has lost each of the last four since 2007, but the Irish will be coming off a bye week while Michigan will be playing after a game at Penn State. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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