One of Notre Dame's central goals in forming its future schedules was fostering difficulty in them. With college football moving to a four-team playoff and a selection committee that'll heavily weight strength of schedule, it was a goal that had to be achieved.
Notre Dame has road games at Florida State, Arizona State and USC this coming fall as well as home games against Michigan and Stanford. North Carolina, Northwestern and Louisville at home could be tricky, as well as a road date against Navy. In other words: Mission accomplished.
"I'd put that schedule from a strength of schedule perspective against any school in the country," athletic director Jack Swarbrick said last month.
Notre Dame's schedule does set up well in the sense it won't play a true road game until facing the defending champions in Tallahassee Oct. 18. Trips to Indianapolis to face Purdue at Lucas Oil Stadium and New York to face Syracuse at MetLife Stadium don't appear difficult on paper, and those games -- plus an open date -- are sandwiched between Michigan and Stanford in South Bend.
The second half of Notre Dame's season, though, is brutal: at Florida State, bye, at Navy (FedEx Field), at Arizona State, Northwestern, Louisville, at USC.
Prognosticating on this stuff with just under nine months until college football returns can be dangerous -- look no further than USC's No. 1 preseason ranking in 2012 -- but with so many strong programs looming chances are Notre Dame will face a more-than-tough schedule this fall.
For the optimists, though, that can be viewed as a good thing.
"I think it's better when there's a tough schedule because when you play a bad team, you just have no motivation that week to really practice hard or really try," tight end Troy Niklas said last month. "You still want to do well in the game, but it's just not as fun when you know it's not going to be a good competition. I always like hard schedules."
Whether the schedule is too hard, though, we'll know a year from now. If it is, Notre Dame could very well be a better overall team with the same -- or worse -- record it had in 2013.