Notre Dame is 2-4 and, to become bowl eligible, needs to win four of its final six games: Stanford, Miami, Navy, Army, Virginia Tech and USC.
The good news is only one of those games is a true road game (USC to end the season). The better news is Stanford lost back-to-back games to Washington and Washington State by incredible margins that harken back to the dark days of the program.
The bad news is what those teams did this weekend, which continued to cement the fact that an Irish team with four bad losses and two weak-opponent wins have an awfully treacherous path to six wins the rest of the way.
Your weekly Irish opponent power ranking:
1. Miami (4-1)
2. Virginia Tech (4-1)
3. Navy (4-1)
4. USC (3-3)
5. N.C. State (4-1)
6. Stanford (3-2)
7. Texas (2-3)
8. Duke (3-3)
9. Michigan State (2-3)
10. Army (3-2)
11. Syracuse (2-3)
12. Nevada (3-3)
Notre Dame would probably rank 10th or 11th in these. On to Week 6:
Texas: Lost, 45-40, to Oklahoma
The Charlie Strong era is on thin ice. Guess Texas wasn’t back after all after beating Notre Dame.
Nevada: Won, 27-22, vs. Fresno State
The Wolf Pack held off a weak Fresno State side in Reno and could get to six wins only because the Mountain West doesn’t have much depth this year.
Michigan State: Lost, 31-14, vs. BYU
A 17-point home defeat to BYU is the latest head-scratching result for Mark Dantonio’s side that mercifully enters a bye week on a three-game losing streak. It looks like that streak of three consecutive double digit-win seasons will come to an end in 2016.
Duke: Won, 13-6, vs. Army
After beating Notre Dame this year, Texas, Michigan State and Duke are 2-7, with this win accounting for half that total (Texas’ win over UTEP is the other).
Syracuse: Lost, 28-9, at Wake Forest
A week after carving up Notre Dame for 33 points, Eric Dungey only threw for 156 yards with an interception and struggled to find Amba Etta-Tawo (four receptions, 36 yards). Give Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson plenty of credit for getting the Demon Deacons to 5-1, but maybe Notre Dame should give Wake Forest defensive coordinator Mike Elko a look given how solid his short-on-talent defense (without a single former four-star recruit) has been this year.
Stanford: Lost, 42-16, vs. Washington State
After clipping a long at a Stanford-esque pace with wins over K-State, UCLA and USC, Stanford has lost its last two games by a combined score of 86-22 to a very good Washington team and a Wazzu side that opened the season with a loss to FCS side Eastern Washington. To make matters worse, Christian McCaffrey rushed eight times for 35 yards and was “banged up” in the second half. This is the worst Stanford has looked since the early days of the Jim Harbaugh era. But will that matter for Notre Dame on Saturday?
Miami: Lost, 20-19, vs. Florida State
A blocked PAT ruined Miami’s undefeated season, and Florida State clamped down on the ‘Canes ground game — Joseph Yearby and Mark Walton combined for only 68 yards on 24 carries. The worry here is this was Miami’s first difficult test of the season, and Mark Richt’s ‘Canes will need to rebound with games against North Carolina and at Virginia Tech in the span of five days before heading to South Bend to face Notre Dame at the end of the month. There’s still a ton of top-end talent here, but depth remains a concern.
Navy: Won, 46-40. vs. Houston
The Mids played their best game of the year by far, racking up 306 rushing yards — and getting Will Worth to throw two touchdowns — while intercepting Greg Ward Jr. twice in a major upset in Annapolis. Navy had struggled a bit up until this game, barely squeaking by UConn (by four) and Tulane (by seven) before losing at Air Force Oct. 1. Full credit to coach Ken Niumatalolo for getting this effort out of his players, which effectively eliminated the Group of Five from College Football Playoff contention.
Army: Lost, 13-6, to Duke
This game was played a few miles up the road from Raleigh in Durham, and the weather conditions weren’t much better than they were for Notre Dame’s slop-fest against N.C. State. Army turned the ball over three times and now has lost two games in a row after that energetic 3-0 start. Up next for the Black Knights are home games against Louisiana-Lafayette and North Texas that could make or break their bowl chances this year.
Virginia Tech: Won, 34-3, at North Carolina
A little further west from Raleigh-Durham, a Virginia Tech team with a budding star at quarterback (Jerod Evans) and an All-American candidate receiver (Isaiah Ford, though he was injured Saturday) rushed 66 times. The Hokies won by 31 while Tarheels quarterback Mitch Trubisky went 13/33 for 58 yards with two interceptions. Committing to the run worked for Virginia Tech, which now has won its last three games by 49, 37 and 31 points.
USC: Won, 21-17, vs. Colorado
The Trojans spoiled Colorado’s first week in the AP top 25 since 2005, with Sam Darnold’s seven-yard touchdown toss to Tyler Petite serving as the game-winner midway through the fourth quarter. Darnold was fantastic again, going 25/37 for 358 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Clay Helton isn’t off the hot seat just yet, but winnable games at Arizona, vs. Cal and vs. Oregon could get USC to bowl safety by early November.