The top five games on Notre Dame's upcoming schedules

The top five games on Notre Dame's upcoming schedules
December 22, 2013, 3:30 pm
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Sept. 6, 2014: Notre Dame vs. Michigan; South Bend, Ind.

It's the last scheduled meeting between these two teams, and it could be the last time Notre Dame hosts Michigan in South Bend. Athletic director Jack Swarbrick left the door open for Notre Dame to face Michigan in a one-off Shamrock Series game at a neutral site, but without any home-and-home series under consideration through 2022 the rivalry won't be played in South Bend or Ann Arbor for quite some time, if ever again.

Michigan won the first "final" game with Notre Dame, topping the Irish in September in Ann Arbor. There surely will be motivation to return the favor and end the series on a high note for Notre Dame; more importantly it'll be a crucial game for the Irish to win if they have any hope of making the four-team college football playoff.

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It'll be Everett Golson's return to the national scene, too, with the game in primetime on NBC.

Oct. 18, 2014: Notre Dame vs. Florida State; Tallahassee, Fla.

We'll know next month if Notre Dame will face the reigning national champions as well as the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, but either way this one likely will have massive implications for both teams. Notre Dame can make a statement by beating Jameis Winston at Doak Campbell Stadium, a statement that would go a long way toward the team's playoff hopes.

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But this game won't make or break Notre Dame next year, seeing as it's sandwiched between four or five other difficult games. But a win at Florida State could give Notre Dame a small margin for error against Arizona State, USC, Stanford, Michigan and Louisville/Northwestern.

Oct. 3, 2015: Notre Dame vs. Clemson; Clemson, S.C.

Florida State, Texas, USC -- none of those game day atmospheres will match the one Notre Dame will have to deal with at Death Valley in 2015. Dabo Swinney has built an excellent program at Clemson, and even though it's a ways away expect this game to matter plenty for Notre Dame's championship hopes.

[MORE: Notre Dame sick bay: Looking ahead to 2014]

Nov. 21, 2015: Notre Dame vs. Boston College; Boston, Mass.

Coach Brian Kelly joked on Saturday that his contract extension took so long to come together because he wanted to negotiate green monster seats for his family for this game. Notre Dame and Boston College will play the first football game at Fenway Park in 45 years in what should be an awesome atmosphere -- and don't sleep on Steve Addazio and the Eagles being competitive a few years down the road. The game won't have the kind of implications of Michigan, Florida State, Clemson or Texas, but Boston College may not be a cakewalk in 2015.

And here's a bonus thought: Torii Hunter Jr. catches a touchdown pass in the right field end zone. He can't stop himself and goes barreling over the bullpen wall in a bit of sublime symmetry. (put Torii Hunter grand slam gif here)

Sept. 3, 2016: Notre Dame vs. Texas; Austin, Texas

Kudos to both schools for scheduling this series as season openers in 2015 and 2016. Notre Dame will welcome Texas to South Bend to begin the 2015 season, but the return visit to Austin looms as the most difficult game on the 2016 schedule (of course, keeping in mind that plenty can change in the next three years).

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While this doesn't matter much for the actual team, there's not a better destination on Notre Dame's next three schedules than Austin. If you're a Notre Dame fan and haven't been, start thinking of ways to book this trip now.