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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
The Observer

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Breaking down Notre Dame’s 2024 football schedule

Among Notre Dame’s opponents, only Florida State and Louisville ended last season in the AP Top 25

This weekend’s Blue-Gold Game kicks off the 2024 action for Notre Dame football. Here’s a look at how the team’s fall schedule lines up in year one of the 12-team College Football Playoff.

Aug. 31: at Texas A&M

The Aggies have been bouncing around the .500 line for the last few seasons, trying to stay consistent in the SEC. Last year, they finished 7-6 but were within one score of ranked opponents like Alabama, Tennessee and Ole Miss. 

The frustration with the lack of wins resulted in head coach Jimbo Fisher’s dismissal from his position in November after starting 6-4. His replacement, Mike Elko, will have a lot to prove coming into the first game of the season. 

Elko, who has already added over 20 players through the transfer portal, has some experience against the Irish. Before accepting the position in College Station, he was the head coach of Duke, who of course nearly had a season-wrecking win over Notre Dame last year. He is also the former coach of Riley Leonard, the presumed Irish starting quarterback for next season. His knowledge of Leonard should not be taken for granted. 

Like Notre Dame, this is a proud program that will be desperate to start the season off with a win. This is not going to be an easy game for the Irish, especially since it’ll be in the blistering Texas heat. 

Sept. 7: Northern Illinois

They say not to mark it in the win column until after the final whistle is blown, but if there is a gimme on this schedule, this is it. A member of the MAC, Northern Illinois did beat Boston College in its first game last year and Georgia Tech in 2021, so upset victories are not uncommon, especially early in the season. 

However, this was a team that had the 102nd-ranked recruiting class in 2023 according to 247Sports. The transfer portal also did not do the Huskies many favors. They ended up losing nine and gaining seven, with several of their players going to far more prestigious programs like Florida and Louisville, while only one of their transfers came from a Power 5 Conference. 

Sept. 14: at Purdue

While the Boilermakers technically reside in a Power 5 Conference, Notre Dame should be more concerned about getting run over by the giant drum than losing this football game. Purdue went 4-8 last year, defeating four far inferior teams and getting absolutely throttled by Ohio State and Michigan. On average, last year the Boilermakers were outscored 30.42 to 23.92, with the offensive total actually enough for sixth place in the Big Ten. This year, their schedule has some easy matchups, but the second half features opponents like Oregon, Ohio State and Penn State. 

Coming into his second season at Purdue after transferring from Texas, starting quarterback Hudson Card had a few nice throws early in their Spring Game last week, including one to redshirt sophomore Andrew Sowinksi for 58 yards and a touchdown. However, the first-team offense settled for field goals before Card was pulled after the first series of the second half. 

Sept. 21: Miami (OH)

Last year, Miami won the MAC Championship before losing 13-9 to Appalachian State in one of the more uneventful bowl games of the season. The RedHawks’ 11 wins were the most wins they’ve gotten in a season since going 13-1 in 2003. 

In the MAC Championship, they held Toledo to 97 rushing yards and stayed ahead of the Rockets for almost the entire game. The defense was incredible, but the offense also played well. Rashad Amos ran for two touchdowns and backup quarterback Aveon Smith, who came in for starter Brett Gabbert when he got injured, had 208 all-purpose yards. Unfortunately for the RedHawks, both Amos and Smith entered the transfer portal and went to new teams Mississippi State and Alabama A&M, respectively. 

This year, Miami has some tough games — their first three are Northwestern, Cincinnati and Notre Dame. They also play at Toledo this year. While this game shouldn’t prove too much of a challenge for the Irish, the RedHawks are hoping the Irish will sleep on them so they can come away with an upset. 

Sept. 28: Louisville

Louisville was the true heartbreaker last year for the Irish. Losing to Ohio State was acceptable, but losing to Louisville was not. The image of the Cardinals’ fans storming the field might fill the Notre Dame players with a sense of urgency and deep desire to have a different ending this year.

Jawhar Jordan was key to Louisville’s success last year. However, the running back is expected to be drafted into the NFL as a sixth or seventh-round draft pick. The projected starting running back for next year will likely be Donald Chaney Jr., a transfer from Miami. Chaney Jr. averaged 5.1 yards per carry with the Hurricanes but only had 94 carries.

Tyler Shough, another transfer from Oregon and Texas Tech, will take over as quarterback. When he’s healthy, Shough makes some impressive plays and favors the deep ball. He had 480 yards of offense against Oklahoma in 2022 but has already had a broken collarbone, a shoulder injury and a broken tibia in her career. Interestingly, two of those injuries came at the four game mark, and this will be the Cardinals’ fourth game. 

With a lot of new players on the field in key positions, this could be a fun game to watch.

Oct. 12: Stanford

The Pac-12 may no longer exist, but this rivalry still does. 

It’s been a few years since Stanford was competitive. Between 2009 and 2018, Stanford was a pretty dominant force in its conference. The Cardinal had a winning record every year, six 10-win seasons and won several New Year's Six games. 

Since 2018, the Cardinal have only won three or four games a year. This year, the focus will be on sophomore wide receiver Elic Ayomanor, who last year had more receiving yards than any other first-year player and was named a First-Team Freshman All-American. 

Joining the Cardinal this year is defensive back Jay Green, who transferred from Washington. The two teams faced each other last year, and Stanford was one fourth down conversion away from upsetting the national runner-up. 

As a new member of the ACC, Stanford’s schedule looks pretty different this year but has a lot of winnable games. Only two games really jump off the page as difficult — a road game at Clemson and a road game in South Bend.

Oct. 19: at Georgia Tech (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)

Finishing 7-6 last year in the ACC, Georgia Tech also won the Gasparilla Bowl against UCF, 30-17. With only three draft prospects set to leave the team, there was an opportunity to keep this team mostly together from last year. 

However, two defensive ends entered the transfer portal this week, leaving the Yellow Jackets thin at that position. They have three veterans and a freshman left, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they get a transfer or two before the portal closes on April 30.

By the time the Irish arrive in Atlanta, the Yellow Jackets will have already had some tough games against Florida State, Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina.

Oct. 26: Navy (MetLife Stadium)

The Midshipmen’s 2024 roster will look very similar to the one Notre Dame throttled last year in Aviva Stadium, 42-3, and only went on to win five games. The starting quarterback battle between seniors Tai Lavatai and Xavier Arline will be something to watch throughout the season. 

Apart from Notre Dame and the other service academies, Navy should be in a good position to win the rest of the games on their schedule.

Nov. 9: Florida State

The Seminoles are not allowed to contact any transfer portal players for the first week of its opening due to NIL violations from 2021. The end of the penalty can’t come soon enough for Florida State, which dealt with double-digit losses during the winter transfer portal window, including wide receiver Goldie Lawrence who was at UCF for three months before re-entering the transfer portal. 

Florida State also has not decided who will replace Jordan Travis, who is expected to be a sixth-round draft pick next weekend. DJ Uiagalelei started for Clemson and Oregon State before transferring and is one of the most experienced college quarterbacks out there. However, Brock Glenn, who replaced Travis after he was injured, could beat him out for the job. 

Glenn, of course, went 9-for-26 with 139 passing yards against Georgia after the Seminoles missed the College Football Playoff because of Travis’ injury despite having a perfect season up to that point. 

While it’s a very different team than the one that nearly made its second College Football Playoff, this team will be looking to prove that it should’ve made it a year ago. Notre Dame will likely be their highest-ranked opponent of the season if all goes well to that point, so Florida State will be looking to play spoiler. 

Nov. 16: Virginia

Last year, the Cavaliers went 3-9. Looking at their schedule, there’s only two games that they should have any significant level of confidence entering — their first game of the season against Richmond and game in the middle of the season against Coastal Carolina. 

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, projected starting quarterback Anthony Colandrea staying with the team and not transferring has been a point of emphasis. Despite going 6-16 over the last two years, the Cavaliers have had minimal transfer losses except for three highly-contributing players — linebacker Lex Long, offensive lineman Jestus Johnson III and wide receiver Demick Starling. 

Virginia is likely to be at the same level as last year, so it should be a successful Senior Day for Notre Dame. 

Nov. 23: Army (Yankee Stadium)

In their its year in the AAC, Army will look to achieve its fifth straight season going .500 or better. Last year, the Black Knights lost all of their games against Power 5 teams but beat both Air Force and Navy. 

So far this year, only five players have transferred out, which is significantly less than other schools. Notre Dame is definitely going to be the toughest game on Army’s schedule. This should be another fun Shamrock Series game for the Irish. 

Nov. 30: at USC

The now Caleb Williams-less Trojans have arguably one of the toughest schedules of any team in college football. Notre Dame is the last mile in the marathon of LSU, Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State, Washington and UCLA.

Replacing the expected first overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft will likely be redshirt junior Miller Moss, who replaced Williams in the bowl game last season. He threw six touchdown passes in the Holiday Bowl, which was also his first collegiate start. In his three years at USC, Moss has thrown for 914 yards and 9 touchdowns. With an inexperienced quarterback and a difficult schedule, head coach Lincoln Riley and the USC fanbase should probably lower their expectations for next year. 

The problems for USC extend beyond quarterback, though. Offensive lineman Jason Zandamela, a top recruit from the class of 2024, announced earlier this month that he was entering the transfer portal. He was the highest-ranked member of the class that was a personal low for rankings for Riley. His decision to leave is likely the result of left tackle Jonah Monheim’s transition to center, an indication that Zandamela was not going to be given a prominent role immediately with the team. Offensive line was a major struggle last year for USC, which finished 98th in the nation in sacks allowed. 

With all the question marks surrounding USC, it’s difficult to know how this game will end up. But if USC struggles as it is expected to, it should be a win for the Irish.