The 5 Toughest Games On Notre Dame's Schedule In 2016

College football's unique in that a single loss could mean the difference between a conference championship (or the ultimate regular-season goal, a College Football Playoff spot) and becoming an also-ran in the FBS ranks. If Notre Dame wants to reach their goal of making the College Football Playoff in 2016, they can afford a maximum of one loss. Here are the Irish's five toughest games heading into this year:

5. at Texas Longhorns (September 4th)
The first game of the season is always tough, but facing what should be an improved Texas team in a hostile environment will make this game even tougher. 

4. Miami Hurricanes (October 29th)
No one knows what to expect from Miami in their first year under Mark Richt, but Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya is one of the best in the country. This will be a tough test for Notre Dame's defense.

3. Michigan State Spartans (September 17th)
Michigan State is expected to take a step back next season without star quarterback Connor Cook and defensive end Shilique Calhoun, and while they may be inexperienced, the Spartans still have plenty of talent and will be competing for the Big Ten title.

2. at USC Trojans (November 26th)
USC is another team breaking in a new quarterback, but they have NFL talent all over the field. Always a heated rivalry game, the Irish will certainly have to play their best in the Coliseum.

1. Stanford Cardinal (October 15th)
Notre Dame nearly knocked off the Cardinal on the road last season, so you'd think the Irish should come out on top this time around. However, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey is arguably the best player in the country, and their defense is always solid. This should be another tough, close game.

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