Looking ahead: Notre Dame's schedule tough, but less menacing?


Looking ahead: Notre Dame's schedule tough, but less menacing?

Notre Dame has played the nation's 15th-toughest schedule, according to Jeff Sagarin's ratings, and is undefeated in those four games. While it's far too early to start thinking about what bowl game in which the Irish will play, there is a fairly clear path to the program's first BCS bid since the 2006 season.

That path involves winning one of three games against Stanford, Oklahoma and USC and not tripping up against the likes of Miami, BYU, Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest. Notre Dame already has a signature road win -- at Michigan State -- and with a national fanbase that travels well, it's highly likely a BCS Bowl would jump at the chance to select a 10-2 Notre Dame team.

With that in mind, here's how Notre Dame's remaining schedule breaks down. (the Irish are ranked No. 10 in the AP poll and 8th in Football Outisders' F rankings)

Results are updated for Saturday's games; rankings are heading into this week:

Oct. 6 vs. Miami (4-1, APcoaches: NR, F: 45)

The 'Canes have had a problem keeping opponents off the scoreboard, allowing Boston College, Kansas State and Georgia Tech to rack up 120 points. Tech was a good win on the road, but if that blowout loss to K-State was more of an indication of where Miami is, Notre Dame will have no problem beating them in a week at Soldier Field.

Miami beat NC State 44-37 on Saturday, as QB Stephen Morris threw a 62-yard touchdown strike with 19 seconds left, upping his game totals to 556 yards and five touchdowns.

Oct. 13 vs. Stanford (3-1, AP: No. 8, F: No. 11)

Those rankings, of course, are prior to Stanford's 17-13 loss to Washington in Seattle Thursday night. The Cardinal were the last undefeated team left on Notre Dame's schedule before yesterday, but Washington corralled running back Stepfan Taylor and forced Josh Nunes to throw 37 times. Stanford's defense accounted for its only touchdown against Washington, and chances are their Oct. 13 contest against Notre Dame will be a defensive struggle. Having the game in South Bend could prove to be the tipping point.

Oct. 20 vs. BYU (3-2, AP: NR, F: No. 22)

Notre Dame's matchup with BYU looks like a classic trap game, sandwiched between games against Stanford and Oklahoma. Both of BYU's losses have been close (by a combined four points) on the road to Utah and Boise State, and the Cougars have a fearsome defense (No. 4 in Football Outsiders' S&P rankings). While beating BYU -- which beat Hawaii 47-0 Friday night -- won't have the national impact of a win over Stanford, Oklahoma or USC, it may be about as difficult a challenge for the Irish.

Oct. 27: @ Oklahoma (2-1, AP: No. 16, F: No. 10)

While Bob Stoops still owns a 78-4 record at home during his tenure in Norman, half of those losses have come in the last two years. Last year, OU lost to unranked Texas Tech, and last week Kansas State defeated Oklahoma 24-19.

It's worth noting that, since OU-Texas is played in Dallas and a scheduling anomaly that meant the Sooners' last two games against Oklahoma State came in Stillwater, Oklahoma hasn't played many top-10 opponents at Owen Field in the last few years. The last time they did was 2008, when Sam Bradford led a 65-21 pasting of No. 2 Texas Tech.

A few costly turnovers victimized Oklahoma in its loss to Kansas State. Landry Jones will represent a stiff challenge for Notre Dame's secondary, but if the Irish front seven can put pressure on the Sooners' QB, perhaps those turnover issues will pop up once again.

Nov. 3: vs. Pittsburgh (2-2, AP: NF, F: No. 44)

Pittsburgh's had one of the weirdest starts to the season of anyone in college football, losing by two touchdowns at home to FCS-level Youngstown State and coming back two weeks later to beat then-No. 13 Virginia Tech 35-17. We'll learn a little more about Pitt in the coming month with games at Syracuse and against Louisville, but they appear to be playing a little better after a rocky start under first-year coach Paul Chryst.

Nov. 10: @ Boston College (1-2, AP: NR, F: No. 58)

BC has shown a decent passing game run by quarterback Chase Rettig, but they're one of the worst rushing teams in the country and their defense is pretty middle of the pack without Luke Kuechly. This could be a trap game, just given it's on the road late in the season, but as things stand right now BC shouldn't give the Irish much trouble.

Nov. 17: vs. Wake Forest (3-2, AP: NR, F: No. 86)

Wake currently is the weakest team on Notre Dame's schedule, and while things can change in the next two months this figures to be a softball heading into USC. The Deacons lost to Duke 34-27 on Saturday, but also lost star wide receiver Mike Campanaro to a broke hand in the second quarter.

Nov. 24: @ USC (3-1, AP: No. 13, F: No. 16)

Matt Barkley and the Trojans haven't looked invincible, as some predicted prior to the season, dropping a contest to Stanford in Palo Alto and skating by Syracuse in New Jersey. That being said, Barkley has thrown for 1,005 yards and 12 touchdowns through four games, and if USC can beat Oregon Nov. 3 in Los Angeles there's still a chance they're playing for a national championship berth against the Irish.

Complete Cubs-Indians World Series Game 3 coverage on CSN

Complete Cubs-Indians World Series Game 3 coverage on CSN

Tune in to CSN at 6 p.m. for Cubs Postseason Live as our crew gets ready for Game 3 of the World Series against the host Cleveland Indians. Be sure to flip over to CSN immediately after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postseason Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Josh Tomlin (13-9, 4.40 ERA) vs. Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 2.13 ERA)

Get ready for Game 3 by reading these stories:

Cubs 'can't imagine' what Wrigley Field atmosphere will be like for World Series

Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks ready for the next biggest start of his career

Ben Zobrist stabilizes Cubs World Series lineup with Babe Ruth-esque performance

Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin will pitch World Series Game 3 against Cubs with ailing father in stands

Kyle Schwarber not medically cleared to play the field, will not start in Games 3-5 of World Series 

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Cubs 'can't imagine' what Wrigley Field atmosphere will be like for World Series

Cubs 'can't imagine' what Wrigley Field atmosphere will be like for World Series

The Cubs already know they have some of the most loyal fans in all of sports. Fans have brought their enthusiasm to Wrigley Field on game days all season long.

But the Cubs also know the energy at The Friendly Confines may reach a new level when the Cubs host the first World Series game since Oct. 10, 1945.

"It's going to be an absolute blast," said manager Joe Maddon. "Beanie's (Maddon's mom) coming in. My kids are coming. Everybody's coming in. It's going to be great. So I know that people have been waiting for this for a long time are going to savor it, and hopefully on our part we can do something to really make it even better."

Ben Zobrist is no stranger to the World Series, with 2016 being his third appearance and second consecutive. He knows what the main stage's atmosphere can be like, but for a fan base that's waited 71 years?

"I can't imagine. They're probably just as excited, if not more excited than we are to see that game played there," said Zobrist, a Eureka, Ill. native. "It's been a long time. They've been waiting patiently and they deserve to have these games played there. Hopefully we can get some Ws there for them. We know it's gonna be electric and a really fun atmosphere."

The Cubs understand what this moment means for their fans. They've also heard the narratives and they don't care.

"We are very much aware of everything that's gone on in the past, but we have to live in the present otherwise you'll never be able to get to this juncture in the season," Maddon said. "So I really am impressed whatever I've read or have heard, the respect our players have shown about every part of this entire situation, organizationally, city-wide, fanbase, all that stuff. I think our players have been outstanding in the way they've handled all that. But at the end of the day, you want to get on that field for the last out, and you want to celebrate among each other.

"I mean, we've been after this for a bit, like everybody else has. We've been after it a bit. Last year started, this year Spring Training. All season long people have been after us, and our guys are still standing. Give them a lot of credit for that. Like Manolo just pointed out, pretty young team on the field last night."

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

The Cubs' batting order for Game 2 at Progressive Field featured six players age 24 or younger, which marked a postseason record. One of those men included designated hitter Kyle Schwarber, who made a surprise return in Game 1 after suffering a significant knee injury in the third game of the regular season.

Although Schwarber wasn't medically cleared by doctors to play the field for Games 3-5 at Wrigley Field, he will be available to come off the bench and pinch hit.

As if the crowd didn't have something to cheer about already, they won't have to wait long to recognize Schwarber for his return, as player introductions will take place prior to Game 3.

"It's going to be great," Schwarber said. "I remember just walking out on the line, when I first got injured, and back for the first playoff game and everything like that, they welcomed me very well. This time, you know, I'm just going to embrace the moment.

"It's going to be awesome. It's the World Series at Wrigley Field. It's going to be electric. It's going to be a fun atmosphere. So I'll definitely soak it in."

Count Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein among those excited to see how loud Wrigley will get when Schwarber runs out of the dugout after his named is called.

"I'll let it speak for itself," Epstein said. "I mean, we were here on Opening Day when he walked out with one crutch, and it was deafening. I think our fans also have a special connection with Kyle, and I'm sure they'll take advantage of the opportunity to let him know how much they appreciate him tomorrow night. Hopefully during the game, too."