SOUTH BEND, INDIANA — Notre Dame revealed its 2023 football schedule two weeks ago with a bizarre video that looked like a rip-off from “The Legend of Zelda.” The montage opened with Marcus Freeman’s catchphrase “Choose hard,” then switched to a digital football player from Notre Dame running unhindered in a straight line as I filled in the names, dates, and locations of opponents in the backfield.
But as any veteran observer of Notre Dame football schedules knows, the full scope of the Irish roster is unknown until the ACC decides which of its teams will have a week of idle time before playing Notre Dame and which are not. And something strange happened Monday night when the Notre Dame conference sort of revealed its full schedule: None of the six ACC opponents on the Irish roster got a week off before facing Notre Dame, winners of 28 straight regular season games against the conference.
2023 schedule, load…#GoIrish pic.twitter.com/zWseXbkv4W
– Notre Dame Football (NDFootball) January 18, 2023
In a twist, Notre Dame has more weeks of idle weeks before facing ACC opponents (two) than ACC has more idle weeks before facing Notre Dame (none). Even Clemson, the team that should protect the conference the most because of its college football potential, faces back-to-back road games at Miami and NC State before hosting Notre Dame.
The release of the full ACC schedule adds a level of intrigue to Notre Dame’s already exciting roster, which feels heavy at home and tough on the road. the athlete It challenged the Irish Table Ranking not in terms of difficulty but varying levels of intrigue. No. 1 is clear. everything else? This is up for discussion.
Each table contains one game without a narrative hook. This is Central Michigan, the game before Ohio State but not a game that will reveal much about Notre Dame. It is not a home opener. It’s not the opening of the season. It’s not even the first “buy play” on the schedule, so the University of Notre Dame freshman reserve and Notre Dame sophomore might have already scored some catches. The second week of fans calling out for more Jaylen Sneed isn’t the same as the first. In a perfect world, Central Michigan is both tuning in for the Buckeyes and a chance to get cheap tickets for a great Saturday afternoon.
11. Tennessee (September 2)
The home opener, with some concern from parts of the fanbase about Notre Dame hosting its first FCS opponent. There is enough intrigue here about playing a game the week after Navy in Ireland to make you stand up and take notice. Last playing Notre Dame a week after playing Navy away, they nearly lost to Purdue at home. The Marcus Freeman vs Eddie George match is a nice sidebar. But this game should allow Notre Dame to show off a bit at home while giving backup players more opportunities to get reps.
10. The Navy (August 26)
The debut of new Navy head coach Brian Newberry, who was last seen by Notre Dame directing a defense that hit the game plan of Drew Payne and Tommy Reese in the second half in Baltimore. The Midshipmen weren’t what they used to be in Ken Niumatalulu’s early years, but they were quite dangerous last Irish season. Ireland’s trip is enough to turn heads on its own, but with Sam Hartman’s Notre Dame debut coming out on top of that, you could argue that Navy’s game should be much higher on this list.
9. In Louisville (October 7)
Jeff Brohm returned home to Louisville, who added quarterback Jack Plummer in the transfer gate. Plummer started against Notre Dame with Cal last season and with Purdue in 2021. The Cardinals are a rebuilding for Brohm, who looks certain to eventually restore Louisville to respectability. Looking at Louisville’s schedule ahead of Notre Dame (Georgia Tech, Murray State, Indiana, Boston College and NC State), there’s a good chance the Cardinals will be 4-1 at worst to begin with.
8. At Stanford (November 25)
On the merits of the Stanford team next fall, this game could be lower on the list. New coach Troy Taylor makes the Cardinals a little hot, but David Shaw’s passive-aggressive blood feud with Notre Dame would have made for a better narrative. Coaching dynamics aside, Marcus Freeman will have a point to prove in Palo Alto after a facelift last season in South Bend. It will be tough to tackle Freeman, who started 0-2 against the Cardinals. And if the Notre Dame season is planned, this game could put the Irish in the New Year’s Six bowl.
7. In North Carolina (September 9)
Few combinations of orchestrators and centrists are more interesting than Robert Anna and Brennan Armstrong. All together at Virginia two years ago, Armstrong passed for 4,449 yards, 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Aside from last season, after Anae was named to the starting staff at Syracuse, Armstrong’s passing yardage was cut in half. He threw only seven touchdowns and 12 picks. Now Anna and Armstrong are reunited in NC State, which had a gap in the middle after Devin Leary moved to Kentucky. If this game is later in the season, it could be an even tougher test for the Al Golden defense. But as the first Power 5 opponent on the schedule, the Wolfpack will be a test regardless.
6. Pittsburgh (October 28)
Notre Dame will host Pittsburgh in the first Irish dormant week of the season, which Pat Narduzzi may have noticed. Moreover, former Irish players Phil Jurkovich, Cebu Flemister and Shane Simon return to Notre Dame with various points to prove it. The Panthers are good enough to get the Irish when they are on their game (see 2018, 2013, and 2012). It’s also combustible enough to drive out of Notre Dame if Narduzzi doesn’t put the team in the right frame of mind. Jurkovic’s first start at Notre Dame was enough to turn heads.
The Sam Hartman Bowl follows Notre Dame’s second idle week, which follows that trip to Clemson. A second touchdown in the week right before Seniors Day sounds a little awkward on paper, but given the injury buildup every college football season, it might just be true. But this afternoon it will be all about Hartmann, perhaps as a referendum on how good the former Wake Forest player has been on a transfer. The Devil Deacons would certainly take a step back after losing their program-defining quarterback. A step back could mean the Irish run away with this game. But Hartmann vs. his previous show will be the TV appointment.
4. At Duke (September 30)
Duke was one of the best stories in college football last fall, going 9-4 in Mike Elko’s first season, including a bowl win. Running back Quarterback Riley Leonard counting for 33 total touchdowns, along with a massive amount of production on both sides of the ball. Combine Duke’s deceptive talent level with Notre Dame’s exit from the Ohio State game, and this trip to Durham requires Marcus Freeman to prove himself as program director after what will be an emotionally charged game one week early. Notre Dame had a loss to Marshall last year after facing Ohio State. And the Duke program is much better than the Marshall program.
3. At Clemson (November 4)
The Clemson brand name speaks for itself, though that has gone downhill in the past couple of seasons. New offensive coordinator Garrett Riley may change that, with quarterback Kady Klopnik replacing DJ Uiagalelei at the offensive position. A win at Clemson would mark the biggest road victory for Notre Dame in over a decade. He might put the Irish on the inside track to bid six for the new year or keep Notre Dame in position for the College Football Playoff, assuming a split against Ohio State and USC.
2. USC (Oct. 14)
Notre Dame’s biggest rivals visit the Heisman Trophy winner. The victory would make the Irish a major contender for the College Football Playoff. There will also be a chance to atone for the 2022 season finale at the Coliseum, when Notre Dame didn’t play well and Williams was playing out of his mind. This matchup should feel the way the Notre Dame-USC series has historically, with both teams ranked and fit in the national title chase. savor it. This game has been a Top 25 game in back-to-back seasons only once in the past 30 years (2005-2006).
1. Ohio State (September 23)
Was there any doubt? Marcus Freeman versus his alma mater. Cross pollination among the training staff. Two college football playoff contenders must go undefeated at kickoff. It’s the kind of game Sam Hartman came to Notre Dame to play, and it’s the kind of game that could change perceptions about the Irish program in general. While it’s hard to put Ohio State ahead before a Clemson win, there’s a chance this could be Notre Dame’s biggest home run since the Bush game. The Buckeyes have won five straight in the series by an average of 14.6 points. There is a lot to prove, both for Notre Dame and its head coach.
(Photo: Ben Jackson/Getty Images)