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It's A Trap! Games Irish Fans Shouldn't Look Past in 2023

Written by Liam Gaudet ⏐ Senior Editor ⏐ Twitter: @LiamGaudetIT

Photo by Action Network

As I patiently await the dawn of a new season, I find myself toiling with everything that has to do with Notre Dame Football in immense anticipation. One of my favorite past-times is overanalyzing the schedule, and I often catch myself overlooking some games in favor of bigger names on the schedule. Now, if last year has taught me anything about this program, it's that we can't afford to overlook a junior varsity team if they were scheduled. So as we inch closer and closer to the beginning of what should be a successful season for the Irish, it's a good idea to look beyond the big games in order ensure a Marshall or Stanford scenario can be avoided for the sake of our sanity. So without further delay, here are my picks for the biggest trap games on the schedule this year.

Pittsburgh - October 28th

Photo by Pitt Athletics

If there's one person who I believe truly despises Notre Dame in the college football sphere, it would be Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi. Whether it be tongue and cheek comments in interviews, or sideline tantrums, you can always count on Narduzzi to drop some of his perceived "wisdom" about the Irish. It wasn't that long ago he accused the Irish of tampering with then-Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett, which turned a lot of heads at the time. Considering the Irish are undefeated against Narduzzi in his tenure at Pittsburgh, it wouldn't usually be cause for concern. Now, however, Narduzzi has the pleasure of coaching another infamous Notre Dame hater in quarterback Phil Jurkovec. For those who may have forgotten, Jurkovec was once the quarterback of the future at Notre Dame, with a plethora of raw potential and the physical tools to boot - that was before his relationship with the staff soured, and Phil transferred out to Boston College. All was quiet for a while until Phil decided to take to social media, posting cryptic shots at the Irish and voicing his disdain for the program. With this being his last shot to take down his former team, you better believe that both Narduzzi and Jurkovec will be zoned in for this matchup. Although it's quite obvious that the Irish have the upper hand in terms of talent, this reminds me a lot of the Stanford game last season. Stanford coach David Shaw had one foot out the door after multiple disappointing seasons with the Cardinal, but had just enough fight left in him to take down the Irish one last time. Could Jurkovec end on a high note against the Irish at home like Shaw? I hope not - but you'd be naïve to overlook a matchup stained with years of bad blood and sour grapes.

Louisville - October 7th

Photo by Sporting News

Every time Notre Dame plays an obligatory ACC opponent that isn't Clemson, I find those games often get globbed together in this tired ball of mediocrity, and it's usually expected that the Irish handle their business in swift and familiar fashion. Louisville, however, could spell trouble for a couple of different reasons. First and foremost, Jeff Brohm is the new sheriff in town for the birds looking to find some consistent stability after an eight-win campaign the previous season. At Purdue, Brohm lead the Boilermakers to a BIG 10 conference championship appearance last season, albeit in a relatively weak division. Still, there's plenty of excitement around the program given the new coaching philosophy and likely an introduction of some grindstone BIG 10 mentality from their new leader. That isn't necessarily the part that scares me, however. Louisville is notorious for its obnoxiously loud crowd noise despite the size of the stadium. And of course, Notre Dame carrying the pedigree that it does, there's almost no doubt in my mind that Cardinal Stadium will be shaking vigorously. Although the Cards will be missing the services of long-time starter Malik Cunningham, they have no shortage of explosive athletes on the roster. Will the Irish be able to weather the storm in the early game and quiet the masses? Probably. But to what degree will we have to sweat this game out becomes the real question. If history tells us anything, the Cardinals are always a team that gives the Irish their best shot, and it often comes down to the wire. The Irish lead the all-time series 2-1, although the first time they met was only in 2014. All three games in the series provided us with competitive football, so there's no reason to believe that this upcoming installment will be any different.

Duke - September 30th

Photo by Duke Athletics

If I only had one game to pick for a potential trap, this is it. Duke has become somewhat of a familiar opponent over the last few seasons, as the Irish have squared off against the Blue Devils twice in the last four seasons (we won't talk about 2016). The circumstances now, however, could not be more different. The Irish last played Duke in 2020, in a game that was never really close and ended up being a decisive two score victory. The following season in 2021, Duke might have made the smartest decision in the entirety of their program by bringing on Mike Elko as head coach, a former Notre Dame defensive coordinator who has seemingly breathed new life into a dying program. Elko spent the last handful of seasons as the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M, where he produced positive results playing against some of the SEC's best. Now, Elko has managed to turn a 3-9 team into a 9-4 team in just one season at the helm. Hell, he even managed to out-recruit Notre Dame for a high priority defensive target this offseason. This program is trending upward with the force of a tidal wave, and returns 17 starters from an already solid team, including quarterback Riley Leonard who looks poised to take a massive leap this season. Add in the fact that Notre Dame will play this game immediately following what should be an insanely physical matchup at Ohio State, and there's definitely cause for concern. Circle this one now, and don't count out the Blue Devils.


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