Undefeated and untied (and winless), I have no such restrictions with which to contend.
Below is a look at Notre Dame's final three contests. Feel free to skip ahead.
MarylandAfter an exciting opening win vs. Miami – replete with ugliest uniform choice seen east of Autzen Stadium – the Terrapins have suffered an epic face plant under first-year head coach Randy Edsall.
Purportedly a candidate to replace former Irish head coach Charlie Weis in December 2009, Edsall's squad has lost seven of its last eight since its upset of the Hurricanes, the lone win occurring vs. FCS school, Towson. The Terp's gave #18 West Virginia a game in Week Two (37-31) and then-#16 Georgia Tech a bit of a tussle in Week Five (21-16) while also battling then-undefeated Clemson to a 56-45 defeat in Week Six.
They've since endured their first-year head coach calling out the fan base for not showing up to watch poorly played and coached football games. "I think whenever you support a team, or you have a team that you like, you support them regardless," Edsall said following a loss to equally woeful Boston College. "There's only seven (home) games a year that you can get out and see. If you're going to be a fan, be a fan and be out there all the time."
Maryland allows 31 points per game, scoring 22.78 per contest. It won nine games last year and finished as the nation's 23rd-ranked team under former head coach, Ralph Friedgen, fired at season's end.
The skinny: Shamrocks on Notre Dame's new helmets...green face masks...green jerseys identical to those worn in Notre Dame's Yankee Stadium win over Army last fall (adidas TECHFIT jerseys). Each should add excitement for the Irish players if not the fan base's traditionalist-sect who'll no doubt suffer a visual assault on their senses watching on NBC.
But wearing new duds when facing a complete dud of an opponent might be the appropriate tact to drum up additional interest in a game that appeared to feature relative peer teams at the season's outset. At worst, the Irish players will enjoy the new garb.
Notre Dame is billing this as the first in its "Shamrock Series" of games: the next to be played in 2012 vs. Miami in Soldier Field and then in 2013 vs. Arizona State in Cowboys Stadium (Arlington, Texas).
As with the Yankee Stadium game last season, Notre Dame will be the home team for Saturday's game at FedEx Field in Landover, MD, home of the NFL's Washington Redskins.
With a win: Notre Dame would move to 7-3 on the season, the quickest an Irish team would reach seven wins (10 games) since the 2006 season when Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija & Co. began 7-1 (finished 10-3). Currently on the outskirts of the nation's 25 ranked teams, Notre Dame would likely move to within the last team out or a #24-#25 ranking depending on losses by the myriad average teams presently ranked ahead.
With a loss: It would be difficult to view the season as a success. Though a 9-4 record would still technically be possible, Notre Dame would finish nowhere near the Top 25 if it's the team that lets the self-destructing Terrapins right its sinking ship. And if Notre Dame is capable of losing to Maryland, it's not likely it could hang within two scores of powerful Stanford at season's end.
Notre Dame is favored by 20.5 points as of Tuesday morning.
Boston College – Senior DayThere was a time that the Eagles visiting South Bend on Notre Dame's Senior Day was a major source of angst for Irish fans. But these aren't your annoying older brother's Eagles…
Mired alongside Maryland at 2-7, BC brings to the late-season table a likeable, but lame-duck head coach in Frank Spaziani, no semblance of consistent offense, and linebacker Luke Kuechly – the nation's most productive player at any position.
Kuechly is a classmate of Manti Te'o – a fellow true junior who earned a starting spot as a true freshman (though Kuechly started from the jump while Te'o started 10 of 12 for Weis' 2009 Irish).
Relevance? Kuechly has amassed more than 200 (two hundred!!) tackles than has Te'o (491 to 283) since the pair entered college together, and Te'o is Notre Dame's most productive tackler since the mid-80s. Two hundred!
BC has lost four of its last five – its only victory a 28-17 win at Maryland on October 29. Its other victory was a 45-17 win over FCS *rival, Massachusetts (sarcasm intended and deserved).
The skinny: A Senior Day celebration for Notre Dame and an opportunity to watch two of the nation's five best linebackers compete for 60 minutes.
With a Win: Assuming a win over Maryland this week, a victory over BC would move ND to 8-3 for the first time in a season since it ended as such in 1996, Lou Holtz's last at the helm. Notre Dame finished with three losses five times since, but never sat at 8-3.
With a Loss: BC would record the last laugh…again. Notre Dame fans (and alumni…including those writing a column about the game at present, if you catch my drift) could not handle a South Bend season-ending defeat to the Eagles, who upset the same apple cart in 1993 and 1999, previously. BC lost its last visit to South Bend, 20-16 in 2009 after winning six straight in the series overall.
Notre Dame will be favored by at least 20.5 again for its home finale.
Stanford – Thanksgiving SaturdayThe shining star of an otherwise innocuous final five contests. The Cardinal finished last season as the nation's third-best team – they're back there again, with a huge matchup vs. #7 Oregon in Palo Alto this Saturday its toughest test to date.
Former offensive coordinator and new head coach David Shaw, along with quarterback and Heisman front-runner Andrew Luck have kept Jim Harbaugh's machine rolling on The Farm, with the Cardinal scoring at least 30 points in 21 of its last 22 games. Double-trouble exists, as Stanford ranks 11th nationally in scoring defense this season. It was the only program to rank among the Top 10 in both total offense and defense last fall.
Additionally, Luck and the Cardinal have won 17 straight games dating back to an early October 2010 loss at then-No. 1 Oregon. It is the longest winning streak in the nation.
The Skinny: Senior Day for the nation's No. 1 NFL prospect, Andrew Luck…a potential BCS-championship game berth on the line for the hosts should they remain undefeated…national redemption for a Notre Dame program with no signature wins since 1993.
With a Win: Notre Dame could conceivably qualify for a BCS bowl berth as it would rocket up the polls (likely from a 20-25 ranking entering the contest) and needs only reach #14 to receive consideration. With a win over Stanford fresh in voters' minds, its hard to imagine many of college football's middle class of teams making a better end-November case.
Even if left out of the BCS bowl proceedings, Notre Dame's program would be perceived at its highest level since it entered a Week Three matchup vs. Michigan ranked #2 in the nation in September 2006.
With a Loss: At 8-4, the Champs Sports Bowl would still salivate to bring the Irish on board. The season would be a relative success considering the 0-2 start, but one looked back upon years later as no more than a stepping stone (it is to be hoped) on the way to a championship effort later. An 8-4 Notre Dame team will have likely defeated just two teams with a winning record – a very solid Michigan State squad and a pesky Air Force group.
In other words: The November 26 game at Stanford, especially if the Cardinal can enter undefeated (home games vs. Oregon and chief rival California remain) will define Notre Dame's season and Brian Kelly's two-year tenure at the school. At 11-0, Stanford should enter the game favored by 7.5 points over the expected 8-3 Irish.
Bide your time anxious Irish fans…it could get interesting again.