It’s been a few years since I’ve done regular predictions/previews during a Notre Dame football season, but this year I am committed to doing so and with a new format to boot! As you’ll see at the bottom, I’ll also keep track of each week’s prediction vs. the actual outcomes. Look for this column to appear every Friday on UHND.com.
Note: feel free to provide some feedback on the format in the comments!
How’d I Do Last Week?
Nothing to compare to this week as it’s the season opener, but each week I’ll look back at the previous week’s prediction to see how I did and how far off I was. Spoiler alert: this section could be lengthy.
Players to Watch
Obviously there’s a lot of players to watch this week beings it’s the opener, but here are a few I am particularly interested in watching in the season opener.
- Tarean Folston – How does his knee hold up and how well does he respond to a couple good, early hits. Folston has flashed his excellent vision throughout camp, but how he responds in his first game back will be interesting.
- Nyles Morgan – He is going to be fun to watch this season.
- Daelin Hayes – How much does the frosh play? If he can rush the passer like we’ve heard he can, will Kelly learn from the mistake of not playing Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt early in the 2011 season?
- Jarron Jones – How many snaps will the big fella be able to take? Kelly raised some eyebrows listing him as a co-starter along with Daniel Cage at NT.
- Greer Martini – Notre Dame’s Mr. Utility gets his chance to start at the WILL.
- Shaun Crawford – A year later we finally get to see the talented corner suit up for the Irish.
- All the Wide Receivers – No point in singling anyone out here. With all the turnover at wide receiver all of them are going to be interesting to watch.
- Avery Sebastian – Can the “old man” handle the free safety position in place of Max Redfield or will we see Devin Studstill in the game early?
- Colin McGovern – Of the three new starters on the offensive line, McGovern was the last to lock down a spot and enters the season as the biggest question mark.
What’s Concerning Me This Week
- The quarterback situation – I’m not a fan of the two quarterback system. I hope Kelly proves me wrong, I really, really do. Until he does, however, the idea of playing two quarterbacks throughout the game scares the hell out of me.
- Opening on the road on a Sunday – Never a good thing to open on the road and never a good thing to open on an unconventional game day. Maybe I’m still jaded from the Thursday night Vanderbilt opener back in 1996. Still, a road opener in prime time on a Sunday scares me.
- Notre Dame’s safeties – Starting Drue Tranquill off an ACL and Avery Sebastian as the safeties worries me not just for this week, but for the season.
- All the new starters – Notre Dame is starting at least 12 new starters against Texas. That’s A LOT of moving parts and creates a lot of room for error this week. Season openers can be sloppy at times. Throw in 12 new starters to the mix and you have a recipe for a lot of mix ups.
- The revenge factor – Everyone keeps pointing to Notre Dame’s 38-3 win last year but remember; in 2003 Notre Dame lost 38-0 to Michigan on the road and them came back the next year and beat the Wolverines 28-20 at home. Fast forward to 2007. Notre Dame gets whacked 38-0 again by Michigan in the Big House and follows that up with a 35-17 victory (that wasn’t that close) in 2008.
- The heat – It should cool down some by kick-off on Sunday night, but the South Texas heat and humidity on Labor Day weekend combined with 110,000 fans could make for some rough playing conditions for the Irish. The summers in Indiana aren’t exactly cool and breezy, but the conditions could take some getting used to.
What’s Not Concerning Me This Week
- Texas’s tempo offense – Yes North Carolina exposed Brian Vangorder’s defense in 2014 and yes Notre Dame has struggled with tempo offenses the past two seasons; but Texas might be starting a true freshman AND the tempo offense is brand new to them. How many times has a school been able to implement a new offense – especially a tempo offense – in an off-season and come out firing on all cyclinders? I expect the Texas offense to have a few kinks in it this weekend as they get used to running the tempo offense.
- Notre Dame’s wide receivers – Even with all the turnover, I like this group of wide receivers and think they will make plays early and often. There may be a few mental errors from the group, but overall I think this group will perform well from the jump in 2016.
- The offensive line – Yes I mentioned that all the new starters in general worry me, but I’m not worried about the offensive line. Harry Hiestand will have his troops locked in and ready. The left side of the line will be a wall with McGlinchey and Nelson. Mustipher and Bars appear rock solid as well. The only wild card, McGovern, was a four start recruit and has been in the program four years. That ladies anf gentlement is how you restock an offensive line.
I have gone back and forth on this one for a while. All off-season long this game has scared me and it continues to do so. Notre Dame has been hit (Navy ’12, Rice ’14, Texas ’15) or miss (Purdue ’10, South Florida ’11, Temple ’13) in season openers under Brian Kelly and none of those openers has been a true road game. Add in the 12 new starters and uncertainty at quarterback with the two headed monster the Irish will unload and there is a lot to be concerned with here.
I expect the Notre Dame offense to struggle early regardless of who is quarterbacking. All those new starters will take some time to gel. In fact, I won’t be surprised in the least if Notre Dame is trailing this one at half-time. Texas has had this game circled for a while and they are going to come out fired up.
In the end, Notre Dame’s strength on both lines and Texas’s own uncertainly at quarterback will win this game for Notre Dame but not without some collective heartburn from Notre Dame fans.
Notre Dame 27, Texas 23
Season Predictions v. Actual Outcomes
|1||@ Texas||W, 27-23||L, 47-50 OT||One defensive stop in the 4th could have saved the prediction.|
|2||Nevada||W, 52-21||W, 39-10||Thought there'd be more scoring, but margin of victory wasn't far off.|
|3||Michigan State||W, 31-21||L, 28-36||Completely overestimated the defense's ability to slow the run game|
|4||Duke||W, 42-24||L, 35-38||I got nothing on this one.|
|5||@ Syracuse||W, 47-38||W, 50-33||Irish show some signs of life and for once an opponent doesn't score more than I predicted.|
|6||@ NC State||W, 42-35|