Tough Schedule: It’s Been Ever Thus

Many analysts have Notre Dame’s 2012 schedule ranked as the toughest in the country, and it’s hard to argue with that. It features trips to Top 5 teams Southern Cal and Oklahoma, and three other games against consensus Top 20 squads Michigan, Michigan State and Stanford, and then throw in “toss-up” games against Miami and BYU. Yikes.
But, one can also say, it’s ever been thus.
Go back 99 years, when Jesse Harper was coach and Knute Rockne his senior captain, and Notre Dame, a small college at the time, made its first-ever trips to mighty Penn State, Army and Texas. Harper added Eastern powers Yale and Syracuse to the slate the next season, then ND played its first-ever games with Nebraska and Rice in 1915.
After Rockne took over as coach in 1918, the trend continued, as his squads added these big-time opponents to the ledger:

1921 – Iowa, Rutgers
1922 – Georgia Tech, Carnegie Tech
1923 – Princeton
1924 – Stanford (Jan. 1, 1925 Rose Bowl)
1925 – Baylor, Minnesota
1926 – Southern Cal
1927 – Navy

And in the 1940s, under Frank Leahy, all games were against name teams, as the Kalamazoos and Drakes were a thing of the past. In 1943 alone, five of the Irish’s 10 opponents were ranked in the top 8 when ND faced them: Michigan (2), Navy (3), Army (3), Northwestern (8) and Iowa Pre-Flight (2).
I guess the feeling about this year has to be: from great challenges come great rewards. If the Irish are able to reach eight or nine victories in the regular season, it will be an noteworthy accomplishment, and one on which to continue building.