With the closing of fall camp brings my annual season over/under predictions post. Last season I hit on just 39% of my predictions, but I was fairly accurate with a lot of the lines set. (Highlights include an over/under total touchdowns for Wimbush set at 29.5, he ended up with 30, and Tranquill total tackles for loss at 10.5, exactly where he ended up.)
This is always one of my favorite columns, everyone likes predictions, and it always gives a look into what type of team I think this is going to be.
As an aside, predicting what the offense will be or what it will do was really hard. I really have no good idea of what this offense will look like on a game to game basis.
Total rushing attempts for Brandon Wimbush– 150.5 (my prediction= over) Chip Long continues to talk about Notre Dame being a running team, and Wimbush is probably the best runner they have. I think all of the talk about Wimbush as a passer is missing it. He’s going to run, a lot, and not just as a scrambler. He finished with 141 attempts last season, he’ll top that this year.
Total carries for Jafar Armstrong– 99.5 (over) Interestingly, I think Armstrong’s role in the offense is more secure than either Tony Jones Jr. or Dexter Williams. He has a skill set that lends itself to all types of games, which isn’t so for Jones Jr. and Williams. There is a good chance he is the top ball carrier as a running back at the end of the year.
Leading receiver total receptions– 49.5 (under) I don’t think anyone gets there this season, although I think three players could get into the 40’s (Claypool, Boykin, Kmet). I just don’t think there will be the volume of passes for any one player to enough targets. To get 50 receptions, you’d have to be right around 100 targets. That’s a lot.
Total touchdowns for the tight ends– 4.5 (over) The last two seasons the Notre Dame tight ends have finished with four combined touchdowns, so it makes sense to set the line there. I think Kmet gets there by himself, with Mack providing a couple to reach the number comfortably. Again, Chip Long loves playing tight ends, and they are such natural targets in the middle of the field, especially around the red zone.
Team rushing yards– 2,499.5 (under) The 2012 team rushed for just under 2,500 yards and I think this seasons unit will do the same. Not enough explosiveness at running back to get there. Incidentally, I think the 2012 offense is a good model for what Notre Dame is trying to be this season.
Total team sacks– 29.5 (over) They achieved 24 last season, with 65 quarterback hurries, and have a number of breakout candidates at defensive end. This is the step that makes this defense elite and I think they make it.
Tranquill + Coney combined tackles for loss– 25 (under) They finished with 22.5 last season, but I think this year they are going to lose some to the defensive line. I really, really like the defense this year.
Combined interceptions for Pride, Love, Crawford– 10.5 (over) This is ambitious, I guess I’m just in a good mood today. Improved pass rush, leads to quarterbacks trying to fit the ball into tight windows with hurried throws, combined with aggressive corners, equals pick city.
Total starts for Houston Griffith– 1.5 (under) He’ll make a spot start due to injury, but Gilman and Coleman keep their jobs.
Ending ranking in total defense in S&P+– 10th (under) They finished 26th last year. Improvements on the defensive line, an upgrade at corner and safety, the dominance of Tranquill and Coney, it’s all there staring us in the face.
Justin Yoon field goal kicking percentage– 78% (over) last season he finished at 77.8%, with the over/under set at 75%, I’m not going to bet against him again, and reports from camp say his leg is looking great. He has a great looking leg.
Freshmen who play more than four contests- 5.5 (over) Kevin Austin, Shayne Simon, Bo Bauer, Houston Griffith, Jahmir Smith, Derrik Allen
Total number of victories (regular season)– 9.5 (over) I change my mind on this almost daily, but this is the one I’m putting in public, so I guess this is the official answer. I think the defense will be top 10 and as for the offense, it’s more a vote of confidence for offensive coordinator Chip Long. I think he got to know his quarterback over the course of the offseason, he understands what works for him and what doesn’t, and he’ll effectively utilize the strengths of his unit, because there is a lot to build off of. Brian Kelly is on the hot seat, but his program doesn’t act like it. That tells me something.