I hate preseason predictions to be honest. That said, they still make for good debate and it is fun to go back in November and look at how wrong – or right – we were just months earlier when confidence was sky high and optimism was brimming.
The 2017 Notre Dame Fighting Irish are nearly impossible to predict. There is almost an entirely new staff, a new starting quarterback, and new offensive and defensive schemes implemented over the off-season. With so many variables, neither a bounce back season or another disappointment should really come as a surprise.
So with all that in mind, Greg and I both predicted Notre Dame’s wins and loss for 2017. I took it a step further and predicted a score.
Week 1: vs. Temple
Honestly, I really don’t like this game at all. The distractions of the new stadium on top of the first game with a new offense and a new defense; and a first time starting quarterback all against a team that has won 20 games the last two years. Similarly, Temple will be implementing new offenses and defenses with a first year head coach, but there is still just a whole lot about this game that worries me. Notre Dame should be favored and should win the game, but I think the Irish are going to come out pretty slow this weekend before adding a late score to make it look a little easier than it actually was.
Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Temple 21
Week 2: vs. Georgia
If there’s a lot I don’t like in the Temple game, there’s a lot that I hate about this game. Georgia isn’t exactly the class of the SEC but they do have two of the best running backs in the country and Notre Dame isn’t strong in the middle of its defense. That is really not a good combination of occurrences for Notre Dame’s chances. Worsening our chances here is the fact that UHND and friends will be at this game and our record in games we all attend together is really atrocious.
Greg and I differ on this one. He is predicting a Notre Dame win in this one, but I am projecting this one as a loss right now. I think Notre Dame scores late to make it look better, but this one will have the feel of a game that Notre Dame is in on the scoreboard from start to finish but never really feels like they are.
Prediction: L, Notre Dame 27, Georgia 29
Week 3: at Boston College
Notre Dame has won the last five games against the Eagles in the “Holy War”, but only one of them could be considered an easy win. In 2010, Notre Dame beat up on Boston College 31-13 and honestly it didn’t feel like close. Notre Dame jumped out to an early lead before falling off a bit. Two years ago the Eagles defenses stymied the high powered Notre Dame offense with the Irish holding on for a 3 point win. This time around I think Notre Dame takes care of business. There will be the emotional drain of a close loss to Georgia but there won’t be the distraction of Fenway Park or a night game. Notre Dame tends to do well in noon kickoffs under Brian Kelly (Navy last year was 11:30 kickoff).
Prediction: Notre Dame 35, Boston College 10
Week 4: at Michigan State
The 2016 Most Underachieving Bowl takes places at the end of September in East Lansing. Michigan State was just as bad, if not worse, than Notre Dame last year even though the Spartans did get the head to head win in Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won the last time they went to Spartan Stadium in 2012 and I think they will again this year. Mike Elko’s defense looks strong for the second weekend in a row and Brandon Wimbush starts to shine against the Spartans just as Everett Golson did in 2012.
Prediction: Notre Dame 24, Michigan State 13
Week 5: vs. Miami (OH)
The first “easy” game of the year for Notre Dame. The 5:00 kickoff is just weird and will disrupt the normal pre-game routine a bit for the Irish, but other than that, Notre Dame shouldn’t have too much trouble with the Red Hawks. Chuck Martin does know Brian Kelly very well so this one might be close for a while, but eventually the more talented team takes control and cruises to an easy victory to end September at 3-1 with questions still lingering about how good this team really is.
Prediction: Notre Dame 42, Miami(OH) 17
Week 6: @ North Carolina
I’ve seen this game listed as a loss by a lot of prognosticators, but I think Notre Dame makes the trip to Chapel Hill and comes home victorious. One area of concern is that the Tar Heels are the same team that exposed Brian Vangorder’s defense initially in 2014. Remember up until that game the BVG fist pumping memes were all the rage and we all were asking how Notre Dame’s defense got so good. Ah the short lived Vangorder honeymoon.
Could Carolina do the same against Mike Elko? North Carolina did hang 50 on Wake Forest in 2015 when they last saw a Mike Elko defense. That was with a really bad Wake Forest team though.
Prediction: Notre Dame 31, North Carolina 21
Week 7: vs USC
Notre Dame will have a bye week after going 5-1 to start the season. The Irish will come in ranked in the high teens and the atmosphere of Notre Dame Stadium will be pretty electric for USC’s biannual visit. Unfortunately, I don’t see Notre Dame being able to hang with the Trojans this year. It will be a little closer than it was a year ago, but Notre Dame runs out of gas in the second half to fall to 5-2 on the season while USC remains unbeaten. The Trojans will lose later in the year, but not this day unfortunately. This is the one loss that Greg and I both agree on. So expect the Irish to pull off the upset.
Prediction: L, Notre Dame 24, USC 38
Week 8: vs. N.C State
Coming off the loss to USC, the Irish will be looking to take out their frustrations on someone. NC State will be on the receiving end of that frustration. Notre Dame should have a bit of an extra edge after last year’s game during Hurricane Matthew. Notre Dame should not have a difficult time in this game and gets back on track with a relatively easy home victory. This would push the Irish to 6-2.
Prediction: W, Notre Dame 34, NC State 17
Week 9: vs. Wake Forest
The Elko Bowl! Wake Forest returns to South Bend to face their former defensive coordinator (Elko), linebackers coach (Clark Lea), and director of player personnel (Bill Rees). Two years ago Elko’s defense kept Notre Dame in check most of the game with Deshone Kizer adding a late touchdown to give the Irish a 28-7 win. Despite the win, the optics looked really bad with Wake sporting a 3-6 record coming into the game. Notre Dame fell out of the 4th playoff spot before essentially removing themselves from consideration a week later with their 19-13 over an equally bad Boston College team.
On paper Notre Dame should be able to clobber Wake Forest, but will Dave Clawson’s knowledge of Elko’s defense keep this one close? I think it will. Notre Dame wins, but it’s closer than it should be.
Prediction: W, Notre Dame 34, Wake Forest 24
Week 10: @ Miami
This is another game a lot of people have as a loss – looking at you Greg. I just don’t see it. Yeah Miami is ranked and they are supposed to be better in year two under Mark Richt, but this is still a football team that Notre Dame beat last year during a 4-8 campaign. That is what I keep going back to. If Notre Dame beat Miami last year with a pretty bad team, I think they beat them this year too. Maybe that’s too just thinking about this one too simply. I dunno., perhaps.
I do know that this game will be a test of the work of Matt Balis though. As Notre Dame enters November and plays a game in humid Miami, we’ll see just how much of a different Balis has made. Last year Notre Dame played Navy in Jacksonville, Florida in the first weekend of November. That didn’t go so well.
Prediction: W, Notre Dame 31, Miami 27
Week 11: vs. Navy
A year after Navy beat Notre Dame in Brian Kelly’s first season (2010), the Irish pounded them at home the following season 56-14. I don’t think it will be quite that bad this year, but I think it will be close to it. Notre Dame gets Navy at home on Senior Day and they will be honoring Knute Rockne with the Rockne series jerseys they announced last week. Senior Day and the jerseys could be a distraction, but they did the same against Army on Senior Day in 2006 and it didn’t make a difference. It won’t this year either.
Prediction: Notre Dame 49, Navy 17
Week 12: @ Stanford
If all goes as I have planned here, Notre Dame would enter this game at 9-2 against a potentially highly ranked Stanford team with a trip to a New Year’s Six Bowl on the line. Notre Dame should have beat Stanford easily last year and they should have beat them in 2015. The Cardinal are replacing a lot of lost talent this year so there is a chance that Notre Dame is the higher ranked team if they do enter this contest at 9-2.
This is another one most are chalking up as a loss this year, but by the time the Irish roll into Palo Alto on Thanksgiving weekend, I think we will see a much better team than the one I think will lose to Georgia in week two. If that’s true, this is a win.
Prediction: Notre Dame 24, Stanford 21