Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2023

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

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4 PRESEASON 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED I t's well documented that Notre Dame will take a 28-game regular-season winning streak against At- lantic Coast Conference op- ponents into 2023. We have to go all the way back to November 2017 at No. 7 Miami to find the last time the Fighting Irish lost to an ACC foe in the regular season. It's also common knowl- edge that as part of the agreement to keep its other sports beyond football and hockey as full-time members in the ACC, the Irish football team plays at least four and sometimes up to six teams from that league every year. It's been a cozy relation- ship with the way Notre Dame football has dominated this conference. The average margin of victory in these 28 wins is 20 points. Additionally, the Irish won 12 of these games by at least 21 points, and only six games during the streak were decided by seven points or fewer. But given the difficult six-game slate of ACC games this season — with four on the road and only two at home — keeping this winning streak alive and the good times rolling will be a tall order this fall. Notre Dame plays at North Caro- lina State, at Duke, at Louisville and at Clemson. It plays at home against Pitt and Wake Forest. All six of these 2023 ACC opponents won at least eight games last season. Three of them won at least nine games. All six played in bowl games. And all but Clemson and North Carolina State won their postseason outings. So, let's take a closer look at the six difficult ACC outings to come this season. Sept. 9, at North Carolina State (Game 3): The Wolfpack nabbed for- mer standout Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong from the transfer portal to reunite with his former Cav- aliers offensive coordinator, Robert Anae. Under Anae in 2021, Armstrong threw for 4,449 yards with 31 touch- downs in only 11 games. Sept. 30, at Duke (Game 6): Un- der first-year head coach Mike Elko — a former Irish defensive coordinator — Duke went 9-4 in 2022, marking only the third nine-win season for the Blue Devils since 1941. Duke features standout junior quarter- back Riley Leonard, who led Duke in both rushing (699 yards, 13 touchdowns) and passing (2,967 yards, 20 touchdowns, 6 interceptions) last season. Oct. 7, at Louisville (Game 7): The good vibes for Louisville began last De- cember with the homecoming hire of Cardinals head coach Jeff Brohm and continued through the portal addition of senior quarterback Jack Plummer, who played four seasons at Purdue from 2018-21 and one at Cal in 2022. Brohm, a Louisville native and a solid quarterback for the Cardinals from 1989-93, coached Plummer at Purdue. That familiarity will help flatten the learning curve. Oct. 28, vs. Pitt (Game 9): Under- rated and often overlooked, the Pan- thers' 20 ACC victories since 2021 rank second only to Clemson (21) in the league. In eight sea- sons, Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi has compiled a fine 62-41 record. In 2021 his Panthers earned a No. 13 fi- nal AP ranking and then fin- ished No. 22 in 2022. Historically, this has been a difficult game for Notre Dame, wherever it's played. N ov. 4 , a t C l e m s o n ( G a m e 1 0 ) : G ive n t h a t Clemson hasn't lost to the same opponent in back-to- back seasons since 2014, Notre Dame faces arguably the toughest game on the schedule here. The Irish have beaten a top-five Clemson team in two straight regular-season matchups (2020 and 2022). But those were at home, not in Death Valley, where the Tigers have won 39 of their last 40 games. Nov. 18, vs. Wake Forest (Game 11): With 11 wins in 2021 and eight wins in 2022, the Demon Deacons have the most victories (19) over a two-year span since they recorded 20 in 2006 and '07. Wake Forest started last season 6-1, its only loss coming to Clemson in dou- ble overtime. The Demon Deacons also beat a good Missouri team from the SEC in the Gasparilla Bowl. None of this is meant to suggest that Notre Dame can't survive this six-pack of games and keep its dominating ACC streak alive. Expect the Irish to be favor- ites in every one of these games other than Clemson. But what it's meant to suggest is that success in these games won't come as easily as it has over the last five sea- sons in a conference that features the best collection of quarterbacks in the country and some difficult venues to win in. ✦ Audric Estimé and the Irish will carry a 28-game regular-season winning streak against ACC competition into their Sept. 9 contest at North Carolina State. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER Irish Best Not Rest On The ACC This Season UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at

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