Notre Dame stemmed the tide, at least for a week, with its 50-33 win over Syracuse on Saturday. At 2-3, the Irish are still far from safe in terms of bowl eligibility, with weekend’s noon ET kickoff against North Carolina State probably the tipping point this team playing in December.
Before running down what Notre Dame’s past and future opponents did over the weekend, a power ranking of 2016’s opponents:
1. Miami (4-0)
2. Stanford (3-1)
3. Virginia Tech (3-1)
4. N.C. State (3-1)
5. USC (2-3)
6. Navy (3-1)
7. Michigan State (2-2)
8. Texas (2-2)
9. Army (3-1)
10. Duke (2-3)
11. Syracuse (2-3)
12. Nevada (2-3)
There’s a pretty clear top and bottom three here, but there’s not much separating Nos. 4-9. Notre Dame would probably slot somewhere in the No. 7-9 range in these.
On to the results:
Texas: Lost, 49-31, at Oklahoma State
The shine of Texas’ season-opening win against the Irish has certainly worn off after losses to Oklahoma State and Cal. Texas had three PATs blocked, one of which was returned for a two-point score, and was picked apart by Mason Rudolph and the Pokes’ offense. Next up is the Red River Shootout, a game Charlie Strong might have to win (again) to save his job.
Nevada: Lost, 38-17, at Hawaii
Brian Polian’s Wolf Pack are 2-3 and haven’t been very competitive in losses to Notre Dame, Purdue and Hawaii. It looks like it’ll be a long year in Reno.
Michigan State: Lost, 24-21, at Indiana
So after beating Notre Dame on Sept. 17, Michigan State has been pasted by Wisconsin and embarrassed by Indiana in an overtime loss. This looks like it’ll be Michigan State’s first down year since 2012, ending three consecutive seasons with top six finishes and at least 11 wins.
Duke: Lost, 34-20, vs. Virginia
Following a theme here, Duke followed its win at Notre Dame with a loss to one of the ACC’s worst teams in Virginia. Quarterback Daniel Jones threw five interceptions a week after slicing up Notre Dame’s secondary in South Bend.
N.C. State: Won, 33-16, vs. Wake Forest
Ryan Finley threw for 300 yards to deal Wake Forest its first loss of 2016 and send the Wolfpack into this weekend’s date with the Irish with some momentum.
Stanford: Lost, 44-6, at Washington
This was Stanford’s worst loss since the mid-2000s, before Jim Harbaugh vaulted this program to perennially elite status. Maybe Stanford’s tough early schedule of Kansas State, USC and UCLA caught up to them in a charged-up road environment, but that still doesn’t explain just how badly the Cardinal were beat on both sides of the ball — Christian McCaffrey only gained 49 yards on 12 carries, for example. Stanford will look to regroup with a home game next weekend against Washington State before heading to South Bend to face Notre Dame.
Miami: Won, 35-21, at Georgia Tech
The ‘Canes kept rolling behind two defensive touchdowns and another mistake-free game from quarterback Brad Kaaya. There are real depth concerns for Mark Richt’s team, but through five weeks Miami looks like the strongest team on Notre Dame’s schedule this year.
Navy: Lost, 28-14, at Air Force
Air Force pulled away in the second half and forced Navy quarterback Will Worth to throw 30 times, an incredibly high number for a triple option team. Navy gained just 57 yards on 38 carries and not only misses Keenan Reynolds but Tago Smith as well. Still, this was Navy’s first loss of the year, though a home date with Houston next weekend probably will be the second.
The Black Knights had the week off to prep for next weekend’s trip to Duke, and despite last weekend’s overtime loss to Buffalo they still only need three wins to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.
Virginia Tech: Bye
Justin Fuente’s Hokies had Saturday off after beating Boston College and East Carolina by a combined score of 103-17.
USC: Won, 41-20, vs. Arizona State
JuJu Smith-Schuster exploded for 123 yards, and quarterback Sam Darnold threw for 352 yards. But more impressive was USC’s defense holding Arizona State’s high-powered offense to just 3.9 yards per play. We’ll see if Clay Helton can turn this result into some extended success with a potentially favorable schedule ahead: Colorado, at Arizona, Cal and Oregon await before the Trojans finish the season at Washington, at UCLA and vs. Notre Dame. It wouldn’t be surprising for USC to go anywhere from 3-1 to 1-3 in that four-game stretch against unranked opponents.