Notre Dame is 2-5 and needs to go 4-1 down the stretch to make a bowl game. While two future opponents suffered upset losses (Miami and Virginia Tech), USC continued its Sam Darnold-led surge.
If the Irish pull out of its tailspin and heads to USC with a 5-6 record, though, the Trojans very well could be the ones to officially put an end to the 2016 Notre Dame season. Or, perhaps more likely, if Notre Dame needs to win in Los Angeles to avoid a 3-9 season -- that's a task looking more and more difficult by the week.
Weekly opponent power rankings:
1. Navy (4-1)
2. USC (4-3)
3. Miami (4-2)
4. Virginia Tech (4-2)
5. N.C. State (4-2)
6. Stanford (4-2)
7. Texas (3-3)
8. Syracuse (3-4)
9. Army (4-2)
10. Duke (3-4)
11. Michigan State (2-4)
12. Nevada (3-4)
Notre Dame would be No. 12 in these, ahead of only Nevada. On to the results:
Texas: Won, 27-6 vs. Iowa State
After being shut out, 24-0, by the Cyclones last year, Teas fell behind 6-3 at halftime but stormed back with 21 third quarter points to cruise in Austin. The Longhorns are 3-3 but don’t have an easy path to six wins, with a tricky road test at Kansas State looming this weekend.
Nevada: Lost, 14-10, at San Jose State
San Jose State is one of the worst teams in the Mountain West the year, but that didn’t matter as Nevada’s blah season continues.
Michigan State: Lost, 54-40, vs. Northwestern
A stunningly bad season only got worse for Mark Dantonio this weekend, with his perennially-tough Spartans defense allowing a ridiculous 54 points to a Northwestern team that, in Week 2, could only manage seven points in a loss to Illinois State. With likely losses against Michigan and Ohio State looming, Michigan State has no margin for error if it wants to make a bowl game, meaning it’ll have to beat Maryland, Penn State and Illinois on the road and Rutgers at home to get to six wins. At this rate, that looks unlikely.
Duke: Lost, 24-14, at Louisville
The Blue Devils defense did about as good a job as it could’ve against Lamar Jackson and Louisville’s offense, but Daniel Jones and the Duke offense couldn’t move the ball in this 10-point loss.
Syracuse: Won, 31-17 vs. Virginia Tech
Dino Babers got a signature Year 1 win by knocking off the No. 17 Hokies at the Carrier Dome, racking up 561 yards of offense in the process. A bowl bid remains a stretch for the Orange, but this win is certainly a promising step in the right direction for the Babers era.
N.C. State: Lost, 24-17, at Clemson
Kyle Bambard missed three of his four kicks, including what would’ve been a 33-yard game-winner with time expiring. Instead of a signature win for Dave Doeren, the game went into overtime, where DeShaun Watson found Artavis Scott for a touchdown and Ryan Finley was picked off on the Wolfpack’s first play to end the game. While Clemson was sloppy and gave N.C. State plenty of opportunities to hang around, this is a defeat that’s going to tough for the Wolfpack to swallow.
Miami: Lost, 20-13, vs. North Carolina
A week after a deflating loss to Florida State, Miami laid an egg at home against North Carolina. Brad Kaaya completed only 15 of 30 passes for 213 yards, while Tarheels quarterback Mitch Trubisky picked apart the ‘Canes secondary for 304 yards and two touchdowns. All of a sudden, Miami’s 4-0 start to the season — against FAMU, FAU, Appalachian State and Georgia Tech — doesn’t look too impressive. A Thursday road trip to Virginia Tech next week looks tricky before the ‘Canes head to South Bend at the end of the month.
Navy: Game at East Carolina postponed
The Mids’ Thursday night trip to East Carolina was postponed due to flooding in North Carolina stemming from Hurricane Matthew and will be made up Nov. 19.
Army: Won, 62-7, vs. Lafayette
Jeff Monken’s Black Knights are now 4-2 after throttling a bottom-feeding FCS side. On one hand, Army’s two losses are by only 10 points, but on the other, this is a team Notre Dame should still have no problem beating in San Antonio next month. Next up for Army is a home game against North Texas, but after that, back-to-back-to-back games at Wake Forest, vs. Air Force and vs. Notre Dame will provide a stiff challenge to get to six wins.
Virginia Tech: Lost, 31-17, at Syracuse
The Hokies seemed to right the ship with a game-tying touchdown early in the fourth quarter, but allowed Syracuse to score touchdowns on back-to-back drives sandwiched between a Virginia Tech three-and-out that cost them this one. Jerod Evans still threw for over 300 yards and Isaiah Ford had eight catches for 83 yards with a touchdown, but it wasn’t enough to vault the Hokies past a defense that allowed 62, 50, 45, 28 and 24 points in five games against FBS opponents this year.
USC: Won, 48-14, at Arizona
The Sam Darnold show rolls on, with the USC quarterback throwing five touchdowns — three of which went to a rejuvenated JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had nine catches for 132 yards as well. The Trojans are now on a three-game winning streak and are playing like the super-talented top 25 team we thought they were back in August heading into their by week.