I am not starting the year great timing-wise with my weekly prediction post coming in pretty close to the wire. But, here I am in the Buffalo airport slugging down a Labat Blue and stuffing my face with buffalo wings and cranking out the first prediction post of the year. There have been worst situations I’ve blogged in.
Things I am Worried About This Week
Scott Satterfield’s first game. I hate having to face coaches in their first games at their schools. You never quite know what you’re getting other than a coach who is looking to make a big splash in his first game. There’s part of me that thinks he’s going to come out firing early and playing like someone with nothing to lose. Then there’s part of me that says this guy is taking over a team that was 2-10 and he isn’t a miracle worker.
The problem is, we won’t know for sure until game time. I hate unknowns like that. So for that reason, I’m worried.
Notre Dame’s passing game. Worried is a really strong word here. Maybe I’m mildly concerned? Ian Book was reportedly not very sharp early on in camp before coming on strong at the end. He is also playing without Cole Kmet or Michael Young, so he’s down a couple of weapons. Neither loss was catastrophic, but add it all up, and I’m a little worried we aren’t going to see the crisp passing game we saw more often than not with Book in 2018.
I hope this concern isn’t warranted and I am just a nervous nelly here.
Any kicks from players in gold helmets. Until I see Jonathan Doerer consistently make kicks and Jay Bramblett consistently help Notre Dame win the field position game, I am concerned with the Notre Dame kicking game. Doerer reportedly came on strong at the end of training camp too, so maybe he’ll give Notre Dame fans some reassurance quickly. Until he does, color me concerned.
Things I’m Not Worried About This Week
Notre Dame’s defensive line. Why should I or any Notre Dame fan be? Notre Dame’s second-string defensive line is as good – if not better – than some of its starting defensive lines in recent years. The Irish do have two new starters on the interior line. We didn’t hear much about Kurt Hinish or Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa over the summer, but that could be a good thing because they didn’t stand out in a bad way.
Notre Dame’s running game. Dexter Williams is not going to be running out of the tunnel for Notre Dame tonight, and there isn’t a home run threat to take over for him. But I am not worried about the Irish running game because I am very confident in the Notre Dame offensive line in 2019. With only one new starter in the lineup tonight, I think we’ll see the Irish line revert back to the form we saw in 2017 – even though Harry Hiestand won’t be there coaching them.
Jafar Armstrong flashed at times last year but never topped 100 yards and after his early-season injuries, he never looked fully healthy. Armstrong eclipses 100 yards tonight.
The Irish secondary. Notre Dame hasn’t had a secondary like it has in 2019 in quite some time. If Julian Love had returned, it would probably be the best in the country. As is, it’s a damn good unit. They’ll be tested at times tonight – specifically Donte Vaughn and Shaun Crawford – but they will pass with flying colors.
Players I’m Watching This Week
Lawrence Keys – Losing Michael Young to a broken collarbone was a bummer because the junior had a great camp and it looked like he was ready to explode in 2019. He still might once he’s healthy, but until then we will get a good look at sophomore WR Lawrence Keys. He might not get a ton of targets tonight, but he’ll make a couple of nice plays.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah – There might not be another player I am more excited to see tonight than JOK. Had he not gotten hurt early last year, I don’t think tonight would be his starting debut. He would have unseated Asmar Bilal by the end of 2018.
Tommy Tremble – Like with Keys, we are going to see more of Tremble than we would have had it not been for injuries. With Cole Kmet out, Tremble should get a lot of looks tonight and in two weeks. We might see him even once Kmet does come back, but for tonight look for #24 to make some plays down the seam.
Drew White & Asmar Bilal – A lot of linebackers are going to play tonight, but how White and Bilal handle their new positions will determine just how long we see a lot of linebackers. If they come out and handle their business, Shayne Simon and Jack Lamb may not play too much. If they struggle though, watch for Simon and Lamb to take more snaps.
Kyle Hamilton – Couldn’t make it through a full post without mentioning freshman phenom safety Kyle Hamilton. I really, really want him to get his first interception tonight just for the Twitter reactions from Greg.
Shaun Crawford – He made it through training camp without issue after his 3rd significant injury. It will be fascinating to see how much of his explosiveness and agility he still has. He is listed as a starter, but I still think we see a lot of rotating with Donte Vaughn.
Tommy Kraemer – Of all the returning offensive linemen, Kraemer is the one I am most interested to see. If he takes the step forward that has been projected for him, the Notre Dame offensive line could be one of the best in the country this year. If he is “just another guy” again, the line can still be good, but it might not be elite.
I’ve gone back and forth on this one a bit. I was actually much more confident in a blowout when I made my original prediction in the season preview post than I am now, but I still am not expecting much of a game past the first quarter.
Louisville will come out a juiced up in their first game under a new coach, but that’ll last a few minutes into the first quarter. Then the athletes will take over. Notre Dame just has too much talent for this game to be close in the end.
While I am not as confident in this pick I was previously, I will stick with Notre Dame winning by 24 and more than covering the spread.
Notre Dame 41, Louisville 17