Sep 14, 2013; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Purdue Boilermakers running back Akeem Hunt (1) is tackled by Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Dan Fox (48) and nose tackle Louis Nix (1) in the third quarter at Ross-Ade Stadium. Notre Dame won 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame Football: Counting Down Notre Dame's Toughest Opponents, Four Easiest Games


According to Phil Steele, Notre Dame Football plays the 4th toughest schedule in the country in 2014. It is easy to determine who the toughest opponent is, Florida State. The Seminoles return the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and many of the players who won the National Champion last year. Here are the toughest opponents on the 2014 schedule, 12-9:

12. Purdue vs. Notre Dame – Indianapolis, Indiana (Lucas Oil Stadium) – September 13th, 7:30 p.m. ET

Besides a 38-10 victory in 2011, the games between Purdue and Notre Dame have been quite close despite how poor Purdue football has been. The Boilermakers only won one game last season, a 20-14 bout with FCS Indiana State. The Boilermakers return 14 starters, 7 on offense and 7 on defense. This is the second season for Purdue Head Coach Darrell Hazel. Purdue will improve slightly. But, 1-11 is a long way from a bowl eligible football team.

11. Rice @ Notre Dame – South Bend, Indiana (Notre Dame Stadium) – August 30th, 3:30 p.m. ET

The Rice Owls won 10 games in 2013 including the C-USA championship. The Owls return 12 players including Wide Receiver Jordan Taylor, Wide Receiver Dennis Parks, Offensive Tackle Caleb Williams, Linebacker James Radcliffe, Defensive Tackle Christian Covington and Cornerback Bryce Callahan. However, they lost two keys to their Offensive rushing attack, Quarterback Taylor McHargue and team MVP Running Back Charles Ross.

10. Northwestern @ Notre Dame – South Bend, Indiana (Notre Dame Stadium) – November 15th, 3:30 p.m. ET

Northwestern fell off the face of the planet last season after losing a 30-40 battle with Ohio State. The Wildcats lost 7 of their last 8 games, many in the last moments. Northwestern returns 16 of its 22 starters. Notre Dame should be extremely careful with Northwestern. It would mean a lot to Northwestern if they were to beat Notre Dame.

9. Louisville @ Notre Dame – South Bend, Indiana (Notre Dame Stadium) – November 22nd, 3:30 p.m. ET

The Cardinals are in transition this season. They lost Head Coach Charlie Strong to Texas. However, they replaced him with Head Coach Bobby Petrino, a former Louisville football head coach. The Cardinals should be a competitive football team. They lost Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as well as first round draft picks Safety Calvin Pryor and Outside Linebacker Marcus Smith. Notre Dame has not lost on Senior Day under Brian Kelly.

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Tags: Football Notre Dame Fighting Irish