Notre Dame doesn't have any margin for error in its quest to reach the College Football Playoff after Sunday night's double-overtime loss at Texas. They'll have to run the table and look good doing it to make football's final four.
So with that in mind, here’s how Notre Dame’s opponents in their next 11 games fared in the first week of the season:
Nevada: Won, 30-27, in overtime vs. Cal Poly
Brian Polian’s side didn’t do much to show it’ll be competitive against Notre Dame this weekend with this narrow win over an FCS side that went 4-7 last year. Cal Poly averaged 5.4 yards per carry and scored three rushing touchdowns, and Nevada only won on James Butler’s walk-off five-yard touchdown run in overtime. While the Wolf Pack went 7-6 last year, they ranked 97th in F/+ and this narrow win over Cal Poly was just as uninspiring.
Michigan State: Won, 28-13, vs. Furman
The Spartans didn’t have to do much to cruise by their FCS opponent, keeping things pretty vanilla to not show Notre Dame much on film. Quarterback Tyler O’Connor completed 13 of 18 passes for 190 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, and running back LJ Scott carried 20 times for 105 yards. Michigan State has a bye week this weekend to get ready to face Notre Dame Sept. 17.
Duke: Won, 49-6, vs. North Carolina Central
Another win for an Irish opponent over an FCS team. Promising for Duke was quarterback Daniel Jones — who will be the team’s starter this year after Thomas Sirk was ruled out for the season due to a ruptured Achilles — completed 10 of 15 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns. We’ll know more about what kind of team David Cutcliffe is fielding this year after Duke faces Wake Forest and travels to Northwestern between now and its Sept. 24 game at Notre Dame Stadium.
Syracuse: Won, 33-7, vs. Colgate
The Dino Babers era got off to a good start, with Eric Dungey completing 34 of 40 passes for 355 yards and two touchdowns. Expect the Orange offense to look like it did against FCS-level Colgate, with a lot of passing but not much running (Syracuse averaged 3.3 yards per carry against Colgate). Up next are three relatively tough tests for Syracuse: A Friday night home game against Louisville, a home game against USF and a tricky road trip to UConn.
N.C. State: Won, 48-14, vs. William & Mary
Ryan Finley completed 17 of 21 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns, and Matthew Dayes rushed 23 times for 138 yards as the Wolfpack cruised past another FCS opponent. A sneaky road date at East Carolina awaits Dave Doeren & Co. this coming weekend.
Stanford: Won, 26-13, vs. Kansas State
While the Cardinal never quite pulled away, they always kept K-State at arm’s length thanks to Christian McCaffrey (22 carries, 126 yards, two touchdowns). Ryan Burns got the start at quarterback and looked solid, completing 14 of 18 passes for 156 yards with one touchdown. Stanford gets a week off before starting a tough five-game stretch: USC, at UCLA, at Washington, Washington State, at Notre Dame.
Miami: Won, 70-3, vs. Florida A&M
Brad Kaaya completed 12 of 18 passes and threw for four touchdowns, and Miami had three players (Mark Walton, Gus Edwards, Joseph Yearby) rush for over 100 yards against their overmatched FCS opponent. After what should be an easy home game against FAU, Miami strangely will travel to Appalachian State — which nearly beat No. 9 Tennessee on Thursday.
Navy: Won, 52-16, vs. Fordham
Tago Smith suffered what could be a serious injury — coach Ken Niumatalolo was in tears talking about it after the game — but Navy pulled a quarterback out of the stands (seriously) and cruised to an easy win over its FCS opponent. Losing Smith — who looked solid against Notre Dame last year in relief of a banged-up Keenan Reynolds — could be a big blow to the MIds, who face Bob Diaco and UConn this weekend.
Army: Won, 28-13, at Temple
This might’ve been the most impressive win a Notre Dame opponent had this weekend given the circumstances: Temple won 10 games last year, while Army won nine total games from 2013-2015. Andy Davidson carried 22 times for 121 yards and two touchdowns to power the Black Knights’ triple option, and Army’s defense suffocated Temple quarterback Phillip Walker, who completed 12 of 26 passes and threw three interceptions. Army faces Rice before trips to UTEP and Buffalo that, after this win over Temple, maybe look winnable.
Virginia Tech: Won, 36-13, vs. Liberty
Liberty led this game until Virginia Tech ripped off back-to-back scoring drives to end the first half, and the Hokies went on to cruise in Justin Fuente’s first game in Blacksburg. Wide receiver Isaiah Ford is a name to know — he caught 11 passes for 117 yards with a touchdown, building off what was an excellent sophomore season (75 catches, 1,164 yards, 11 touchdowns). Next up for Virginia Tech is a trip to Bristol Motor Speedway to face a Tennessee side that barely squeaked by Appalachian State on Thursday.
USC: Lost, 52-6, to Alabama
USC led 3-0 after the first quarter and it looked like Alabama was having some issues at quarterback, with one-time Notre Dame commit Blake Barnett struggling and freshman Jalen Hurts fumbling on his first college snap. But Alabama, the AP preseason No. 1, showed up and dominated Clay Helton’s Trojans: The Crimson Tide gained 465 yards and held USC to 194. JuJu Smith-Schuster was double-teamed all day and only caught one pass for nine yards, while Ronald Jones (seven carries, 46 yards) and Justin Davis (seven carries, two yards) were ineffective. This was about as concerning a start to the season as USC could’ve had, and after a layup against Utah State next weekend, road trips to Stanford and Utah loom.