First Glance: Notre Dame Second Half Schedule

Taking a look at the six opponents left on the Notre Dame 2021 football schedule
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How do Notre Dame’s remaining opponents shape up? Let's takes a look at where they all stand halfway through the season, and what is on deck for Notre Dame during the second half of the season

USC TROJANS

Record: 3-3
Schedule Prior To ND: Oct. 16 - Bye
Offense: PPG: 32.2 (ranked 46th nationally)
Defense: PPG: 27.3 (ranked 80th nationally)

The Trojans struggled for years under the weight of some bad coaching by Clay Helton. USC took care of their Helton problem for the long term when he was fired after a 42-28 loss to Stanford on Sept. 11. The problem is that interim coach Donte Williams inherited a mess. The Trojans lost 42-26 to a mediocre Utah team on Oct. 9. USC has been favored in all six of its games. That means their schedule is weak. Nevertheless, the Trojans have a bye week and they have some talented players like quarterback Kedon Slovis and Drake Jackson, a 6 foot 4, 250-pound edge rusher. Both will likely get drafted.

NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS

Record: 3-3
Schedule Prior To ND: Oct. 16 vs. Miami / Oct. 23 - Bye
Offense: 35.5 (28th)
Defense: 26.7 (76th)

North Carolina fans are wondering how long Mack Brown will last after a 35-25 loss to Florida State on Oct. 9 at home. It’s been a disappointing season for the Tar Heels. UNC started the season ranked 10th in the Associated Press football poll after finishing 8-4 in 2020. North Carolina lost to Virginia Tech and it’s been a struggle since. 

The Tar Heels have a good win against Virginia at home but Georgia Tech beat them 45-22 on Sept. 25. North Carolina was flagged for 12 penalties against FSU, and it allowed Seminole quarterback Jordan Travis to get 266 all-purpose yards. Their defense has been a hot mess. Sam Howell, a 6-1, 225-pound junior quarterback, is good and like a high NFL pick.

Record: 1-4
Schedule Prior To ND: Oct. 14 at Memphis / Oct. 23 vs. Cincinnati / Oct. 29 at Tulsa
Offense: 17.6 (121st)
Defense: 32.2 (106th)

Two years ago Navy was 11-2. One of its losses was to Notre Dame. The Midshipmen had a bizarre situation where its offensive coordinator, Ivin Jasper, was fired after a 23-3 loss to Air Force by Navy Athletics director Chet Gladchuk. Gladchuk didn’t consult with Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo. Jasper was hired back by Niumatalolo as the quarterback coach the next day. 

Another assistant Billy Ray Stutzmann was fired because he wouldn’t get the Covid-19 vaccine. Despite their record, the Midshipmen appear to be getting a little better each week. Their last three games have been a 28-20 loss to Houston, a 34-30 victory over UCF and a 31-24 loss to SMU, which is ranked 23rd by the Associated Press.

VIRGINIA CAVALIERS

Record: 4-2
Schedule Prior To ND: Oct. 16 vs. Duke / Oct. 23 vs. Georgia Tech / Oct. 30 at BYU / Nov. 6 - Bye
Offense: 34.2 (36th)
Defense: 28.5 (91st)

This is the best team left on Notre Dame’s schedule. The trip for the Irish will be similar to the Virginia Tech trip. The Cavaliers beat Louisville 34-33 on Oct. 9, outscoring the Cardinals 21-3 in the fourth quarter. Virginia has a top notch offense, which is averaging 525 yards per game and 412-yards per game in the air. That’s sixth in the country in total yards. Quarterback Brennan Armstrong has completed 65% of his passes and thrown for 17 touchdowns. The Cavaliers give up lots of points though and have had to win some shootouts.

GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS

Record: 3-3
Schedule Prior To ND: Oct. 16 - Bye / Oct. 23 at Virginia / Oct. 30 vs. Virginia Tech / Nov. 6 at Miami / Nov. 13 vs. Boston College
Offense: 28.5 (68th)
Defense: 25.7 (72nd)

Tech played big against Clemson, losing 14-8 on the road. This is Geoff Collins’ third year as the Yellow Jacket coach. He was 3-7 in 2020 and 3-9 in 2021. Tech has a tough schedule. It still has Georgia on Nov. 27, Virginia Tech, Virginia and Notre Dame left. No one can say the Yellow Jackets won’t be tested. Their best game so far is a 45-22 victory over North Carolina.

STANFORD CARDINAL

Record: 3-3
Schedule Prior To ND: Oct. 16 at Washington State / Oct. 23 - Bye / Oct. 30 vs. Washington / Nov. 5 vs. Utah / Nov. 13 at Oregon State / Nov. 20 vs. California
Offense: 25.8 (86th)
Defense: 27.0 (77th)

It’s always a challenge to end the season on the road after Thanksgiving to the Cardinal. Notre Dame can thank Stanford, though perhaps not in the long run, for getting former USC coach Clay Helton fired. Stanford’s best win was a 31-24 victory over Oregon. The Ducks were BCS material until that loss. This isn’t a typical David Shaw-coached team — one that prefers to grind it out on the ground. The Cardinal are averaging 254 yards passing per game and 98 rushing. Thomas Booker, a 6-4, 309-pound defensive end, is an NFL prospect.

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