The Irish's travels this fall include two trips to California and one to the Bronx
Notre Dame being Notre Dame, there are certain parts of the Fighting Irish's schedule that are consistent from year to year. USC or Stanford will come to South Bend in the middle of the year and ND will visit the other to close the season on Thanksgiving weekend. Navy is somewhere on the docket every year and so are five games against ACC foes.
But there is always a wrinkle or two, as well. This year, a familiar opponent returns, the Irish face teams from four of the five Power 5 ranks, and there are two trips to California in the back half of the season.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2018 Schedule
Bye: Week 8
Week 1 – Sept. 1 vs. Michigan (Notre Dame, Ind.)
The great rivalry is renewed in this season-opening contest. Though neither Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh nor Irish boss Brian Kelly (above, right) is on the hot seat, the loser of this game will be in an uncomfortable position just one week into the year.
Week 2 – Sept. 8 vs. Ball State (Notre Dame, Ind.)
The Cardinals will journey over from Muncie to play the in-state Irish for the first time. Ball State was 2-10 in Mike Neu’s second year as head coach.
Week 3 – Sept. 15 vs. Vanderbilt (Notre Dame, Ind.)
Notre Dame’s third straight home game features a battle with the SEC Commodores. Derek Mason-coached teams will always feature a hard-nosed defense and Vanderbilt returns quarterback Kyle Shurmur, who threw for 2,823 yards and 26 touchdowns last fall.
Week 4 – Sept. 22 at Wake Forest (Winston-Salem, N.C.)
In the season’s first road test, ND will go to Winston-Salem to play the Deacons. Wake surprised the experts last year by going 8-5, and 4-4 in the ACC, culminated by a thrilling win over Texas A&M in the Belk Bowl. The Demon Deacons will have to replace star quarterback John Wolford, who emerged as one of the league’s best passers in 2017.
Week 5 – Sept. 29 vs. Stanford (Notre Dame, Ind.)
In a game that could determine which way the Notre Dame season goes, the Irish face a talented Stanford squad. Athlon’s Way-Too-Early Top 25 had Stanford at No. 13 and the Cardinal have won seven of the last nine meetings with the Irish.
Week 6 – Oct. 6 at Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, Va.)
The folks in Blacksburg will be geared up when Notre Dame comes to Lane Stadium for the first time. The Hokies have several holes to fill – especially on defense – but head coach Justin Fuente knows a thing or two about generating points and Bud Foster is adept at stopping opposing offenses.
Week 7 – Oct. 13 vs. Pittsburgh (Notre Dame, Ind.)
It’s a big year for Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi, who saw his team slide to 5-7 in his third season. Games between the Panthers and the Irish are always entertaining as nine of the last 11 matchups have been decided by one score or less.
Week 9 – Oct. 27 vs. Navy (SDCCU Stadium - San Diego)
The Irish and the Midshipmen have played in some different locales in recent years. You can now add San Diego, home to the nation’s largest naval base.
Week 10 – Nov. 3 at Northwestern (Evanston, Ill.)
The Wildcats had a huge 2017, finishing 10-3 and beating Kentucky in the Music City Bowl. If they are to repeat that success this coming fall, they will have to do it without 1,300-yard rusher Justin Jackson.
Week 11 – Nov. 10 vs. Florida State (Notre Dame, Ind.)
They have only played eight times, but there have been some memorable games between Notre Dame and Florida State. Most recently in 2014, the defending national champion Seminoles held off the then-unbeaten Irish when ND receiver Will Fuller was called for offensive pass interference on Corey Robinson’s apparent game-winning touchdown catch.
Week 12 – Nov. 17 vs. Syracuse (Yankee Stadium - Bronx, N.Y.)
Dino Babers’ high-flying offense, led by quarterback Eric Dungey, will score a lot of points. Unfortunately for the Orange, their defense will often give up more.
Week 13 – Nov. 24 at USC (Los Angeles)
It’s an even numbered year, which means the Irish finish the regular season at USC. Quarterback Sam Darnold and running back Ronald Jones II are gone, but the Trojans still have high school All-Americans littering their roster.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.