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I often put Notre Dame under the ACC blog and would have done it this time but wanted to put my ACC predictions out as I was already a day late in my own obstructed world. Anyway, time for everybody’s favorite (or hated) independent football school in the nation: Notre Dame.
The Irish will always be considered a top 15 program in the nation on a yearly basis, but many will always view them as not being a top 5 program anymore, thanks to a few things: 1. They zero in more on the academic aspect of things 2. They aren’t truly affiliated with a conference, which will sting them when it comes to the votes by the playoff committee and 3. Brian Kelly.
Brian Kelly is one of the most scrutinized coaches in college football and while I haven’t ever taken a poll to Notre Dame fans about their take on Kelly, the ones I know are definitely not fans of Kelly and pray that the Irish just can him. For me, as an outsider who isn’t a Notre Dame fan, I don’t see Kelly taking the Irish to the promised land, but I also don’t think he is worse than what Charlie Weis was or Tyrone Willingham was. So will Kelly keep his job in South Bend for another year?
The Irish last year did a great job of bouncing back from their 2016 disaster as Kelly hired the right guys in place, notably Chip Long and Mike Elko to run the offense and defense respectively. When Notre Dame was rolling up through early November, Long and Elko looked to be studs, smacking the likes of Michigan State, USC, and NC State, all of whom had great years. The Irish offense was led by Josh Adams, who ran like crazy last year and should have gotten more Heisman consideration than what he really had. And Adams took pressure off of quarterback Brandon Wimbush. However, Wimbush’s struggles with his completion rate and now Adams in the NFL, questions abound if he is the guy. Dexter Williams takes over for Adams at running back so time will tell if he helps out Wimbush. Wimbush, for as electric as he is, needs to get his receivers involved in the games, which really showed late in the season when Miami thumped them, Navy gave them fits and then Stanford took them down. That has to improve for both Wimbush and Kelly’s sake.
On the defensive side the Irish will return 9 starters, but Mike Elko has left for Texas A&M, meaning LB coach Clark Lea takes over. It’s a good move, but he will have to really continue what Elko did in South Bend, and that is build off that defense. There has been talk that the secondary is an issue, but I’m more inclined to think that the pass rush will help the secondary out big time if Notre Dame wants to keep building off which means the defensive line needs to come up with more sacks than the 24 they put out last year (83rd in the nation). If the Irish can rush the quarterback better then watch out for what Notre Dame can actually do on that side.
Notre Dame’s schedule is always a tough one on a yearly basis, though after the Michigan game in the opening week, they have a couple of games where they can prep themselves before Stanford comes in and then a trip to Virginia Tech right after. However, things are very manageable save for the Virginia Tech trip and their last game of the year at USC. Also, that Northwestern game in Evanston will be an intriguing one. If Kelly can manage a run where he goes 10-2 (which is very possible), the Irish could see a New Year’s Six game and until the USC game perhaps a playoff spot so once again, they can be contenders. But it will be how far Wimbush can take them.
BEST CASE RECORD: 11-1. WORST CASE RECORD: 7-5. MY PREDICTION: 10-2. The Virginia Tech and USC games I feel will trip up the Irish, but if they can bring down the Hokies, watch out.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat