I’ve been wanting to do a pre-season prediction post for a while now and with one day left before the season starts, I was just about out of time so here goes a quick game by game prediction.
- South Florida – WIN - South Florida is a quality team and a tough week 1 opponent, but let’s be honest here. Notre Dame should beat South Florida. The Irish are more talented and experienced along both lines and should control of the line of scrimmage. Notre Dame wins by 10+
- Michigan – WIN - There is simply no reason for Notre Dame to lose this game on paper. Notre Dame is much more experienced and deep at almost every position, but on paper Notre Dame should have won in 2010… and 2009. The emotional factor plays in Michigan’s favor with the first night game in Michigan Stadium, but that stuff only lasts for a couple minutes, right Charlie? This is is a game Notre Dame has to win this year and I think they will.
- Michigan State – LOSS – It pains me to predict a loss here after the way Michigan State won last year but coming off an emotional win over Michigan, this game is a classic let down scenario. Notre Dame is definitely capable of winning this game, and in reality, this is another game the Irish should win. That said, I think Sparty squeaks one out again.
- Pitt – WIN – Pitt will have a new coach and even last year when Notre Dame struggled early in the season they didn’t have too much of a problem with Pitt until letting up late. Yes, Pitt is now coached by the same Todd Graham who led Tulsa to an upset win over Notre Dame last year, but I still think Notre Dame bounces back from the MSU loss in a big way and wins comfortably.
- Purdue – WIN – Notre Dame has won three in a row over Purdue and if the Boilers were going to take one from Notre Dame it would have happened in at some point during that span. I think Michael Floyd has a huge game in this one ala Jeff Samardzija in 2005 and his name pops up in the outside edges of the Heisman debate.
- Air Force – WIN - I have to be honest, I don’t like this game at all. It smells like a classic trap game to me. Maybe it’s just the memory of being in the stands as Chad Hall ran all over the field on the Irish in 2007. I have this penciled in as a win, but I just have a bad feeling it will be too close for comfort.
- USC – WIN – I don’t care how much USC fans want to point out that USC was a dropped Robert Woods pass away from winning last year. Notre Dame wins this one and starts its own streak over USC. Some like to overlook just how much Notre Dame controlled the line of scrimmage in that game and won despite Tommy Rees turning into a turnover machine after protecting the ball pretty well prior to that game. With a week to prepare and a night game in Notre Dame Stadium, the Irish wake up some echoes and make some noise in the House that Rock built. Meanwhile, Dayne Crist starts to really settle in at quarterback making people forget there was a quarterback race in fall camp.
- Navy – WIN - IF there is one game I want to see Notre Dame win more than any other this year, its this one. Again, maybe its the memory of sitting in the Meadowlands in utter amazement and disappointment last October (which was followed up later that night by watching my Phillies get eliminated in the NLCS by the Giants), but Notre Dame has to win this game and do it fairly convincingly. It has been five years since Notre Dame won comfortably over Navy and that includes 3 losses in the last 4 games. Close games with Navy need to stop starting this year.
- Wake Forest – WIN – This game would a fun road trip since the Wake campus is really nice, but the game itself shouldn’t be close. Notre Dame wins again to improve to 8-1 and sneaks into the top 10 for the first time in 5 years.
- Maryland – WIN – Maryland is a much better team than most give them great for. They beat a good NC State team at the end of 2010 and hung around with Florida State. I think Notre Dame will win this one, but it will be close. Notre Dame’s depth along the defensive front 7 will be the difference. We saw how well the Irish defense played in November last year and with another under Paul Longo that should continue.
- Boston College – WIN - Last year’s game should have been a laugher but the Irish took their foot off the gas and the offense sputtered allowing Boston College to hang around for a little while before coasting to a 31-13 victory. With the game in South Bend this year, I don’t expect things to change that much. Boston College was really bad on offense last year and barring a miraculous turnaround they will have trouble moving the ball against the Irish defense as Notre Dame improves to 10-1 to set up a showdown with Stanford. Note – a win here would give Notre Dame three straight over Boston College which would be a very nice change after BC took 6 in a row from Notre Dame during the Davie, Willingham, and Weis eras.
- Stanford – LOSS - The loss of Jim Harbaugh to the NFL will hurt Stanford much more than most in the media are admitting so far this year, but this team will still benefit from some of the attitude that Harbaugh instilled in them and Andrew Luck is the best offensive player the Irish will face this year. Notre Dame loses a close one and puts a BCS bid in jeopardy.
So there you have it, a final regular season record of 10-2 with a pretty good chance of earning an at large bid to a BCS bowl – possibly the Fiesta if Oklahoma plays for the title or the Sugar is an SEC makes it out of the SEC alive again this year. This lines up almost exactly with how Matt Fairchild from SportsCrack.com saw the schedule earlier this month when he shared a post with us.
A 10-2 regular season would be a vast improvement from last year – especially if the losses this year are not of the blowout variety like the Stanford and Navy debacles of a year ago. Notre Dame has the talent and depth to be in every game this year if they stay healthy, but I just think the offense is going to be just inconsistent enough for the Irish to drop a couple games and make a couple others more interesting than they should be.
Note: all of these predictions were made by leaving emotion at the door as best I can so while my head is telling me that 10-2 is reasonable and an improvement my heart is telling me that Notre Dame has a chance to shock the world and run the table. Of course, my heart tells me that every year around this time.