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

899375.png

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.

TOMBOY: Former Bears DE Alex Brown on raising girls with sports

TOMBOY: Former Bears DE Alex Brown on raising girls with sports

The following is a Q&A with former Chicago Bears defensive end and CSN Chicago Bears analyst Alex Brown on gender in sports leading up to CSN’s original documentary TOMBOY airing on March 13.

What character traits did you develop through sports and how did you pass those on to your daughters?

Being available and always coming with a great attitude whether practice or in a  game.

How can your daughters benefit from sports?

I think all kids can learn that you don't always "win." Sometimes you have to learn how to face defeat whether in the corporate world or in a sports atmosphere.

Was there a female role model in your life that you looked up to?

I have four brothers, so the one female figure I grew up with was my mom. To raise five boys takes a special woman. She is nothing short of special in my book.

Is it tough to see some of the violence against women going on in the NFL, and do you feel like things are worse now with social media? Everything appears to be out there; not just information, but images and video.

I don't think it's worse. I actually believe that because it's out there and no longer hidden within homes. People actually have to take accountability for their actions. Hopefully this helps us move closer to not treating women - or men for that matter - this way.

How is raising two daughters different than raising a boy?

Well for me, raising daughters is all new, I grew up with four brothers, so having to  deal with emotions almost 24/7 is something that I have never been faced with before. Girls are sensitive but they love you like no other. My girls meet me at the door at the end of the day with a huge hug and they are super excited that I am home. My son, on the other hand, kind of throws his hand in the air and says, "Hey, Dad, glad you're home." (laughs) Completely different to say the least.

Do you steer your daughters into playing sports?

I definitely would like for my girls to play sports because of what sports can teach with team building, bonding and being competitive. But it's their choice. What I do tell them is that you don't have to play if you don't want to, but if you do then we are going to be the best that we can be at whatever sport it is that they are doing.

Do you watch women’s sports?

We will watch WNBA, college soccer and softball together, but I think they would rather color and draw sometimes than watch sports in general.

How do you see the future of women’s sports?

I think the future of women's sports will hang on if it can get a superstar that has it all. The way we see the NBA isn't the way it was prior to MJ getting there, even though Magic and Bird were ruling. It took the perfect combination of charisma, talent, likability and marketability; that as we all know now was Michael Jordan, and the sport took off from there. In each sport - whether soccer, volleyball, softball, basketball, tennis (Serena Williams) - they just need that one special person and the fan base will grow and that sport will thrive.

Report: Patriots not expected to trade quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo

Report: Patriots not expected to trade quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo

The Bears will likely be in search of a new starting quarterback in 2017 after making Jay Cutler available in trade talks last month.

But if general manager Ryan Pace had Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in mind, he'll need to look elsewhere this offseason.

It's an interesting development as the NFL Draft Combine begins today in Indianapolis, and is sure to affect how those quarterback-needy teams like the Bears, Browns and 49ers approach their situations this week.

Garoppolo, who has one year left on his contract sitting behind Tom Brady, has been linked to the Bears this offseason. He started two games for the Patriots last season while Brady was serving his four-game suspension, and he threw for 496 and four touchdowns in wins over the Cardinals and Dolphins, and he posted those numbers despite injuring his right shoulder in the second quarter of the Miami victory.

With Garoppolo seemingly out of the picture the Bears will turn their focus toward the NFL Draft. Holders of the third overall pick, they have options in Mitch Trubisky (North Carolina), Deshaun Watson (Clemson) and DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame).