Breaking down the Notre Dame football schedule: Big names and Big venues headline 2022

By Justin Frommer

A new era of Notre Dame football is about to commence as first-year head coach Marcus Freeman leads the Irish into the 2022 season with big goals.

Many questions to answer ahead of fall camp and the primetime season opener at Ohio State on Sep. 3 in Columbus, Ohio. A new quarterback has to emerge. So does a new running back. Back are some important defensive pieces. Others were added via the transfer portal. All will be key to a successful year, which the Irish hope ends in a College Football Playoff berth for the second time in three seasons, and third in five.

ND Preview lineup and links:Everything you need to know about the 2022 Irish

Here's a look at Notre Dame's 2022 schedule ranked by matchup from bottom to top:

12. UNLV

Oct. 22 at Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.

UNLV quarterback Cameron Friel looks for a receiver during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against San Diego State on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Chase Stevens)

Where's (Isaiah) Foskey?Star pass rusher stays on the move

The Rebels aren't expected to provide much of a challenge on either side of the ball after a two-win season in which they ranked near the bottom of college football in scoring (20.8 points per game), rushing (109.8 yards per game), total offense (312.2 yards per game) and scoring defense (32.8 points per game). UNLV does return sophomore quarterback Cameron Friel, who won Mountain West Freshman of the Year last season. It also brought in Harrison Bailey, a sophomore quarterback transfer from Tennessee who showed promise in the SEC. UNLV also lost its leading tackler from last year, Jacoby Windmon, who transferred to Michigan State.

  • Other players to watch: Doug Brumfield (RB), Kyle Williams (WR)
  • Last year's record: 2-10 (2-6, Mountain West)
  • Series history: No previous matchups

11. Marshall

Sept. 10 at Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.

MTSU safety Reed Blankenship (12) tackles Marshall running back Rasheen Ali (22) to force a fumble that was recovered by MTSU on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

The Thundering Herd were part of this year's conference realignment fiasco, moving from Conference USA into the Sun Belt. Marshall had one of the best offenses in college football last year, finishing 16th in total offense (456.8 yards per game). However, it will have to replace quarterback Grant Wells, who transferred to Virginia Tech. Known for their air threat, the Herd return last year's top rusher in Rasheen Ali, who recorded 1,401 yards and 23 rushing touchdowns last season.

  • Other players to watch: Corey Gammage (WR), Henry Colombi (QB)
  • Last year's record: 7-6 (5-3, C-USA)
  • Series history: No previous matchups

10. Cal

Sept. 17 at Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.

California running back Damien Moore (28) fends off Nevada linebacker Daiyan Henley (11) during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)

The Golden Bears will be bringing a young roster into their first game against Notre Dame in 55 years. They return only eight of 22 starters from a season ago, and will have to replace quarterback Chase Garber who threw for 50 career touchdowns. Cal's bright spot last year was its defense, which allowed only 22.2 points per game, good for 32nd in college football.

  • Other players to watch: J. Michael Sturdivant (WR), Damien Moore (RB)
  • Last year's record: 5-7 (4-5, PAC-12)
  • Series history: 4-0, Notre Dame
  • Last meeting: 1967 (41-8, Notre Dame)

9. vs. Boston College

Nov. 19 at Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.

Nov 20, 2021; Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA; Boston College Eagles quarterback Phil Jurkovec (5) takes off running towards Florida State Seminoles defensive back Jammie Robinson (10) during the first half at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

This Senior Day matchup will mark the return of Phil Jurkovec. The former Irish quarterback will play his first game in South Bend since transferring to Boston College. Last season he threw for only seven touchdowns and 914 yards, dealing with a hand injury suffered early in the season. Another Notre Dame connection is former tight ends coach, John McNulty, who is now the Eagles' offensive coordinator. Boston College's defense could be an underrated group, returning seven starters from last season. It's not like Boston College hasn't broken Notre Dame hearts on senior day before. Anybody remember 1994?

  • Other players to watch: Zay Flowers (WR), Pat Garwo III (RB)
  • Last year's record: 6-6 (2-6, ACC)
  • Series history: 16-9, Notre Dame
  • Last meeting: 2020 (45-31, Notre Dame)

8. Syracuse

Oct. 29 at the JMA Wireless Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.

Oct 30, 2021; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange running back Sean Tucker (34) breaks free from the Boston College Eagles defense in the fourth quarter at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse head coach Dino Babers may be on his last chance after a disappointing 5-7 record a year ago. He returns one of college football's top running backs in Sean Tucker, who ran for 1,445 yards and 12 scores a season ago. This matchup comes right before Clemson's trip to South Bend, so the Irish may need to be extra focused because weird things happen in the JMA Wireless Dome (formerly the Carrier Dome).

  • Other players to watch: Courtney Jackson (WR), Garrett Shrader (QB)
  • Last year's record: 5-7 (2-6, ACC)
  • Series history: 7-3, Notre Dame
  • Last meeting: 2020 (45-21, Notre Dame)

7. Navy

Nov. 12 at M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md.

Quarterback, Tai Lavatai of Navy after scoring hist team's TDin the first half as Army faced Navy at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on December 11, 2021.

Navy's triple option didn't confuse many teams last season as the Midshipmen only scored 20.1 points per game (117th in CFB) and finished 126th in total offense (282.2 yards per game). This game comes in a tough final stretch of the season for Navy. Its trip to Baltimore to play Notre Dame comes right after a road game at Cincinnati and right before a road game at UCF, which is followed by its rivalry game against Army to close the season. The Irish, meanwhile, will be coming off one of its toughest matchups of the season against Clemson.

  • Other players to watch: Tai Lavatai (QB), Kai Puailoa-Rojas (RB)
  • Last year's record: 4-8 (3-5, American)
  • Series history:78-13-1, Notre Dame
  • Last meeting: 2021 (34-6, Notre Dame)

6. Stanford

Oct. 15 at Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.

Notre Dame’s Justin Ademilola (9) forces Stanford's Tanner McKee (18) to fumble during the Notre Dame vs. Stanford NCAA football game Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021 at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif.

Stanford is in a bit of a slump after missing out on a bowl game for a third consecutive season. However, the Cardinal returns one of this year's top quarterback prospects in Tanner McKee, who threw for 2,327yards and 15 touchdowns in 2021. Stanford will need to find something in its run game, after recording only 89.6 rushing yards per game (126th in CFB) last season.

  • Other players to watch: Elijah Higgins (WR), Benjamin Yurosek (TE)
  • Last year's record: 3-9 (2-7, PAC-12)
  • Series history: 21-13, Notre Dame
  • Last meeting: 2021 (45-14, Notre Dame)

5. BYU

Oct. 8 at Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas

Brigham Young quarterback Jaren Hall celebrates the Cougars' victory over Idaho State with teammates.

The Cougars are never a group to take lightly. Despite losing Zach Wilson to the NFL Draft, BYU won all five of its games against the PAC-12 last season, including conference champion, Utah. This year, the Cougars return 18 starters, eight on offense and 10 on defense, making for an interesting Shamrock Series matchup in Las Vegas.

  • Other players to watch: Jaren Hall (QB), Puka Nacua (WR)
  • Last year's record: 10-3
  • Series history: 4-2, Notre Dame
  • Last meeting: 2013 (23-13, Notre Dame...later vacated)

4. North Carolina

Sept. 24 at Keenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, N.C.

North Carolina Tar Heels running back British Brooks (24) attempts to get through South Carolina Gamecocks defense  during the Duke's Mayo Bowl at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Thursday, December 30, 2021.

Jg Mayobowl 123021 069

The Sam Howell era in Chapel Hill is over. In steps Jacolby Criswell and Drake Maye at quarterback. The duo will have a talented group of returning wideouts. The Tar Heels could have yet another explosive offense, returning their top-three receivers from last season, including Josh Downs, a touchdown-scoring threat every possession.

  • Other players to watch: British Brooks (RB), D.J. Jones (WR)
  • Last year's record: 6-7 (3-5, ACC)
  • Series history: 20-1, Notre Dame
  • Last meeting: 2021 (44-34, Notre Dame)

3. USC

Nov. 26 at the Memorial Coliseum , Los Angeles

Caleb Williams followed former Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley to USC.

For the first time since 2010 both Notre Dame and USC will bring in new head coaches into this storied rivalry — Marcus Freeman and Lincoln Riley. The Trojans also brought in a new star quarterback in Oklahoma transfer Caleb Williams, who could also be a Heisman Trophy contender this season. USC's concerns remain on defense, where it returns one starter from a group that gave up over 400 yards per game in 2021.

  • Other players to watch: Travis Dye (RB), Jordan Addison (WR)
  • Last year's record: 4-8 (3-6, PAC-12)
  • Series history: 48-36-5, Notre Dame
  • Last meeting: 2021 (31-16, Notre Dame)

2. Clemson

Nov. 5 at Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.

Clemson's Dabo Sweeney, center, is carried on the shoulders of his players after their 38-10 win over Virginia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

Clemson's last trip to South Bend in 2020 was an instant classic. This year's matchup could be another, even if the Tigers are coming off of a three-loss season. The Clemson quarterback in that double-overtime game, D.J. Uiagalelei, is back for his junior season, as is sophomore running back Will Shipley, who should form a strong backfield.

  • Other players to watch: Kobe Pace (RB), Joseph Ngata (WR)
  • Last year's record: 10-3 (6-2, ACC)
  • Series history: 4-2, Clemson
  • Last meeting: 2020 (34-10, Clemson in ACC Championship)

1. Ohio State

Sept. 3 at Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio.

Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) calls a play during the second quarter of the NCAA football game against the Michigan State Spartans at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021.

The storylines for this opening game are endless. Two of college football's premiere programs at one of its grandest venues in the Horseshoe. Marcus Freeman beginning his first full season as head coach against his alma mater. College Gameday on site in Columbus. The Buckeyes return some stars, too in C.J. Stroud, TreVeyon Henderson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. What a tremendous way to begin the 2022 season.

  • Other players to watch: Miyan Williams (RB), Marvin Harrison Jr. (WR)
  • Last year's record: 11-2 (8-1, Big Ten)
  • Series history: 4-2, Ohio State
  • Last meeting: 2016 (44-28, Ohio State in Fiesta Bowl)
Sept. 3@ Ohio StateColumbus, Ohio7:30 p.m. EST
Sept. 10MARSHALLSouth Bend, Ind.2:30 p.m.NBC
Sept. 17CALIFORNIASouth Bend, Ind.2:30 p.m.NBC
Sept. 24@ North CarolinaChapel Hill, N.C.TBD
Oct. 8vs. BYUAllegiant Stadium, Las VegasTBD
Oct. 15STANFORDSouth Bend, Ind.7:30 p.m.NBC
Oct. 22UNLVSouth Bend, Ind.2:30 p.m.NBC
Oct. 29@ SyracuseSyracuse, N.Y.TBD
Nov. 5CLEMSONSouth Bend, Ind.7:30 p.m.NBC
Nov. 12vs. NavyM&T Bank Stadium, BaltimoreNoon
Nov. 19BOSTON COLLEGESouth Bend, Ind.2:30 p.m.NBC
Nov. 26@ Southern CalLos AngelesTBD