<
>

A look at the road ahead for ND

9/30/2010

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Following last week's clunker at home against Stanford, a 37-14 loss that dropped Notre Dame to 1-3 this season, receiver Theo Riddick was asked from where he draws hope that the Irish will turn it all around.

"Brian Kelly," he said.

Despite the Kelly era's sickly start, ND still has faith that its first-year coach can lead them out of the desert and possibly into the bowl picture. But there's very little room for error. The Irish need at least five wins over their final eight games to become bowl eligible.

Here's a look at the road ahead:

Big one in Beantown

Saturday's game at Boston College is a real opportunity for Notre Dame to pick up some momentum. The Eagles (2-1) have their flaws, which were displayed last week in a shutout loss to Virginia Tech. Always an emotional rivalry, a road victory would certainly clot ND's open wounds.

Twice as nice

Getting past BC and Pittsburgh in consecutive weeks to reach .500 might be expecting too much. But it's very possible. The Panthers (1-2) opened the season with an overtime loss to Utah and were smoked last week by Miami. Problem is, a big reason coach Dave Wannstedt is still at Pittsburgh is that he's beaten the Irish the last two seasons.

Count 'em

The rest of October should be a clean sweep with visits by Western Michigan, whose only win is against FCS squad Nicholls State, and Tulsa (2-2) sandwiching a neutral-site game against Navy (2-1). Western coach Bill Cubit has plenty of experience facing Kelly, who led Central Michigan's side of the Mid-American Conference rivalry. However, what Cubit does not have is enough offensive firepower to compete with the Irish. Navy's schedule is softer than sponge cake and it's hard to imagine the Midshipmen, with stunning wins in 2007 and 2009, will be sharp enough to sink Notre Dame again. Tulsa ventures to South Bend only slightly more intimidating.

Nothing easy in November

If Kelly and Co. can get to the early-November bye week at no worse than 5-4, they'll need at least one victory against Utah, which started the year unranked and has climbed to No. 13, Army and USC, now positioned at No. 18. Notre Dame's never played Utah and hasn't beaten USC since 2001. After the loss to Stanford, which came into South Bend at No. 16, the Irish remain winless in their last 11 games against ranked opponents.