Five weeks of the college football season have come and gone and Notre Dame is 2-2 as the Fighting Irish will head to Las Vegas to take on No. 16 BYU (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday, NBC). It isn’t the beginning Marcus Freeman wanted to his 1st full season as Notre Dame head coach, but Freeman is relishing another shot this weekend at toppling a ranked opponent and claiming the 1st big win of his tenure.

All 4 Notre Dame head coaches who preceded Freeman during the past 25 years grabbed a victory over a ranked foe during their 1st season, but as Saturday Road looks ahead at the rest of the schedule, it’s tough to see where Freeman would get a victory over a ranked team if the Fighting Irish don’t leave Vegas winners.

There are several “winnable” games left, but after the BYU tilt, the Fighting Irish likely have just 2 regular-season games remaining against ranked foes, and both of those teams likely will be among the top 10 at kickoff. That doesn’t mean Notre Dame won’t win at least one of those contests, but it does mean Saturday might be the best chance Freeman gets at a signature win during Year 1.

Here is a power ranking of the remaining 8 regular-season games on Notre Dame’s schedule, from easiest to toughest.

8. Navy (1-3), Nov. 12 (M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore)

Navy is a tough group to figure out. The Midshipmen beat the best team they played, East Carolina, 23-20 in double-overtime. That win came in Greenville, N.C., which is a difficult place to play. Just ask NC State, which narrowly escaped against the Pirates in Week 1. But the Midshipmen also have a loss to Football Championship Subdivision foe Delaware and just fell to rival Air Force 13-10 despite their defense playing spectacularly, forcing 2 turnovers and limiting the Air Force ground game to just 4.3 yards per carry. The Middies always are ready to play Notre Dame, so it’s hard to place them dead last on this list, but Ken Niumatalolo’s team is dire offensively (123rd in ESPN’s SP+ offensive efficiency metric and 75th of 75 teams I rank in my success rate metric), all of which spells doom for the Naval Academy in Baltimore next month.

7. Boston College (2-3), Nov. 19 (Notre Dame Stadium)

Speaking of rivalry games against bad football teams… Jeff Hafley and the Eagles are a mess. They boast the worst run game in the Power 5 (129th in rushing offense) and as a result, NFL prospect Phil Jurkovec is rendered largely ineffective at the quarterback position. As a result, the Eagles also squander a talented defense, which has kept them in games for a half before wilting in the 3rd and 4th quarters on multiple occasions this season. Playing at home, expect a 9th consecutive Notre Dame victory in the series.

6. UNLV (4-1), Oct. 22 (Notre Dame Stadium)

The Rebels are off to a hot start, with a 2-0 record in the Mountain West and a 10-point victory over a quality Utah State program (Utah State pushed BYU last weekend). Quarterback Doug Brumfield is a special player. He has thrown for 1,223 yards and completed 70.5% of his passes with 8 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions through 5 games. Brumfield also ranks 3rd on the Rebels in rushing yards with 142, and he’s a goal-line machine, with 5 rushing touchdowns, each of which came in the red zone.  The Fighting Irish have 8 straight wins against Mountain West foes, however, and UNLV won’t be physical enough on either line of scrimmage to win the game.

5. Stanford (1-3), Oct. 15 (Notre Dame Stadium)

This series has been dominated by the home team of late, with visitors winning just 3 of the past 10. This Stanford team is better than its 1-3 record, as the Cardinal have played 1 of the nation’s most difficult early schedules and lost 3 times to quality opponents: Washington, Southern California and Oregon. There’s plenty to like about Stanford’s run game, too, which spelled trouble for Notre Dame against Marshall. E.J. Smith (son of Emmitt) and Casey Filkins have combined for 483 yards on 91 carries this season, averaging more than 5 yards per touch. As always, Stanford is sound in the kicking game, too, ranking 17th in SP+ special teams efficiency rankings. The problem has been getting stops. Stanford has given up 40 points or more in all 3 games against Power 5 competition, and without improvement, winning in South Bend, Ind., will be difficult for the Cardinal.

4. Syracuse (5-0), Oct. 29 (JMA Wireless Dome aka the Carrier Dome)

The Orange has been among the best stories of the 2022 college football season. New offensive coordinator Robert Anae, hired away from Virginia where he helped the Cavaliers finish among the top 10 nationally in total offense in 2021, has been revelatory. Anae has quarterback Garrett Shrader playing like an All-ACC selection and last weekend, the Orange finally got its All-American running back, Sean Tucker, going in the run game. Meanwhile, Dino Babers has a salty defense as usual. The Orange has a murderous schedule late, so the 5-0 record might end up hovering about 7-5, but it’s still an impressive turnaround for a program that went 5-7 a season ago. Syracuse does the things well that you need to do to beat Notre Dame — stay on schedule offensively and move the chains, play field position football, and stop the run. Notre Dame sandwiched this game between the homecoming weekend with UNLV and the Nov. 5 home date with Clemson. If that sounds like a trap, it’s because it is. A tough game here and the Fighting Irish will need to be focused to win.

3. No. 16 BYU (4-1), Oct. 8 (Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas)

We’ve written plenty more about this big game, breaking down key matchups, including Jaren Hall against the Fighting Irish secondary. For now, let’s just say this is a huge game from an optics standpoint for Fighting Irish coach Marcus Freeman. A win, and suddenly Notre Dame is 3-2, has a victory over a ranked opponent, played a College Football Playoff team in Ohio State close in Columbus, and has a shot, even if small, at a New Year’s Six bowl in Freeman’s initial season. Lose, and you really are wondering if anything but 7-5 and a Camping World Bowl or Pinstripe Bowl or Sun Bowl is possible. This might be a more important game than either of the next 2, but the list is about difficulty.

2. No. 5 Clemson (5-0), Nov. 5 (Notre Dame Stadium)

In a world where the Notre Dame offensive line has matured into the strength Freeman believed it would be during summer camp, this matchup would be quite fascinating. Like the Ohio State game, the question would be whether Notre Dame could score just enough to turn things over to its excellent defense. Unlike the Ohio State game, Notre Dame would be playing at home in front of 77,000 of its closest friends. If Freeman wants a true signature win this year, this is his best shot. Clemson is a national title contender, but the Tigers aren’t without warts. The secondary is young and can be had vertically. They can be 1-dimensional at times because the offensive line play hasn’t been consistent. DJ Uiagalelei won at Wake Forest, which was a terrific win. But this environment will be different than Winston-Salem, N.C. How much better is Uiagalelei this season really? We’ll find all this out Nov. 5. Should the Fighting Irish finish October without another blemish, don’t be surprised to see ESPN’s “College Gameday” in South Bend, either.

1. No. 6 Southern California (5-0), Nov. 26 (The Coliseum)

The Trojans earn spot No. 1 here on account of the fact that Notre Dame has to travel to LA but gets Clemson at the friendly confines of Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won the last game played at the Coliseum (2018), but the Fighting Irish will have their hands full against coach Lincoln Riley’s first Southern California team. Caleb Williams and the Trojans offense rank 19th nationally in total offense and 16th in my success rate metric. The Trojans have scored 41 points or more in all but 1 game. Oh, and they have the unstoppable Jordan Addison, last year’s Biletnikoff Award winner while at Pittsburgh, on the perimeter to make plays for Williams. This offense is potent, and Notre Dame will need to play terrific, assignment football to give its offense a chance to stay in the game. In the end, beating USC on the road likely will require at least 28 to 35 points, and there’s not enough evidence yet that Notre Dame is ready to win a game that high-scoring against a very good team with a competent defense (apologies to North Carolina).