Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 30, 2017

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

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52 OCT. 30, 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI T he Oct. 16 Associated Press poll might have been eye opening to Notre Dame faithful. Four of the remaining six teams on Notre Dame's schedule were ranked — No. 8 Miami, No. 11 USC, No. 16 North Carolina State and No. 22 Stanford. Two teams the Irish already played were also ranked — No. 3 Georgia and No. 18 Michigan State. It might prompt one to ask when was the last time Notre Dame faced such a formidable schedule, espe- cially in the back end. Judging schedules can become fickle. If the Irish defeat most of those opponents, chances are those foes might no longer be ranked, and the clamor can become, "Notre Dame doesn't play anyone." Conversely, if the Irish lost to most of those teams, then it's likely those opponents would finish ranked, and the lamentation would be, "Notre Dame's schedule is too difficult. Look at all the ranked teams it played." In the preseason, Athlon ranked Notre Dame's 2017 slate as the 13th most difficult in college football, but a final determination cannot be made until the season is over. The following is Blue & Gold Illus- trated's ranking of the 10 toughest schedules in school history. 10. 1958: USC The Worst? Not until the 10th and final game did Notre Dame face a foe that was under .500 — and that was at USC, who the Irish defeated 20-13 thanks to a phenomenal goal-line stand. Two of the Irish's losses were to teams that finished No. 2 (Iowa) and 3 (Army), and three other opponents placed in the top 20. Fifth-year head coach Terry Bren- nan was fired despite finishing 17th in the country with a 6-4 record. 9. 1986: Death March Debut First-year head coach Lou Holtz noticed the schedule upon his hiring and called it "your average death march." It began with Big Ten champ Mich- igan (quarterbacked by current Wol- verine head coach Jim Harbaugh), trips to Michigan State and No. 2 Alabama (helping lead to a 1-4 start), and concluded with national champ Penn State, SEC champ LSU in Death Valley and at USC. The Irish finished 5-6, losing five games by a total of 14 points. 8. 1987: Into The Fire Holtz's first Irish team the year prior had a No. 3 ranking in strength of schedule, but his second squad faced a schedule ranked No. 1 with its opponents compiling a 71-34-2 record (.671) — not including a 35-10 loss to 10-2 Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. Still the Irish won at Michigan (26- 7), and whacked Big Ten/Rose Bowl champ Michigan State (31-8), then- No. 10 Alabama (37-6) and Pac-10 champ USC (26-15), before falling to Penn State, national champ Miami and the Aggies. 7. 1990: Burned At Home The Irish defeated co-Big Ten champs Michigan and Michigan State, Cotton Bowl champ/defend- ing national champ Miami, SEC champ Tennessee in Knoxville and USC in the Coliseum — and still fin- ished "only" 9-2 during the regular season. That resulted from blowing 24-7 and 21-7 leads at home against Stan- ford and Penn State, respectively. The Irish also lost 10-9 to No. 1 Colorado in the Orange Bowl. 6. 1985: Faust's Finale Fifth-year head coach Gerry Faust was on the hot seat, and the schedule didn't help during this 5-6 campaign. DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY Ranking Notre Dame's 10 toughest football schedules The 1986-90 schedules under head coach Lou Holtz consistently ranked among the top three nationally. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS

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