Matt Cashore /

What Though The Odds Be?

A hidden key to the upcoming campaign for Brian Kelly’s Irish? Turn around a troubling tide in true road games vs. peer foes.

Notre Dame’s 2012 football season is often referred to as an “outlier” by frustrated Irish fans. That magical ride provided by Brian Kelly’s third-edition Irish squad included not only the signature win – at Oklahoma – of his tenure to date, but a sterling 4-0 record in true road games, including three wins as either underdogs or as a slight favorite.

But road results vs. competitive foes since? Blech.

Notre Dame has dropped seven straight true road games vs. what should be considered “Peer” foes. How to define “peer” in this instance: If the Irish were favored by seven points or less or entered as underdogs of seven points or less (a one touchdown spread) it seems fair to consider the contest a matchup of peers.

Remove the aforementioned 2012 campaign, the so-called outlier, and the program’s performance in true road games is a head-shaking 2-11 vs. peer foes. 

2015: 0-2
-- Lost at Clemson as 3-point underdogs
-- Lost at Stanford as 4-point underdogs
(Notre Dame was 2-1 in such matchups at home/neutral).

2014: (0-3)
-- Lost at USC as underdogs of 4.5 points
-- Lost at Arizona State as underdogs of 3 points
-- Lost at Florida State (kind of) as underdogs of 9.5 points
(The Irish were 2-1 in such matchups at home/neutral).

2013: (0-2)
-- Lost at Pittsburgh as favorites of 4.5 points
-- Lost at Michigan as favorites of 4.5 points
(Conversely, the Irish were 4-1 in such matchups at home/neutral).

2012: (3-0)

-- Beat USC as 4-point favorites
-- Oklahoma as underdogs of 10.5 points (not technically a “peer” but it fits for our purposes).
-- Beat Michigan State as 3-point underdogs
(In keeping with the season’s theme, the Irish were 2-0 in such matchups at home/neutral).

2011: (1-2)
-- Lost at Stanford as 7-point underdogs
-- Won at Pittsburgh as 7-point favorites
-- Lost at Michigan as favorites of 3.5 points
(The Irish were 1-1 in such matchups at home/neutral).

2010: (1-2)
-- Won at USC as 4-point underdogs
-- Won at BC as 3-point favorites
-- Lost at MSU as 3-point underdogs
(Kelly’s first Irish squad was 3-3 in such matchups at home/neutral).

Consider the disparate home/neutral results vs. peers – 14 wins, 7 losses, including an 8-3 mark over the three seasons – and it’s clear the inherent challenge of a true road tilt will define the 2016 campaign.

Following Sunday’s contest in Austin, two other “peer matchups” will likely present, with a trip to Raleigh against NC State and, of course, to Los Angeles vs. the rival Trojans.

Certain peer matchups on the Irish home slate include Michigan State and Stanford, with Miami and/or Virginia Tech likely in that regarding pending the Hurricanes’ and Hokies’ performance over the next two months.

Notre Dame’s three remaining games away from home are neutral site matchups vs. perceived lesser foes Syracuse (New Meadowlands), Navy (Jacksonville) and Army (Shamrock Series in San Antonio). 

Can Kelly and his youth-filled Irish change their fortunes vs. quality road foes this fall?

Test No. 1 of 3 draws near. Top Stories