ESPN Favoring Notre Dame in Every Football Game in 2018

Heading into the 2018 season, ESPN has projected Notre Dame to win 10 football games.  Ok, 9.9 wins but we’re rounding here.  Despite the 10 win projection though, ESPN’s Football Power Index actually currently has Notre Dame favored in every game this fall. Just who ESPN thinks are some of the easier opponents for the Irish right now though may surprise you.

Here is a rundown of every game listed from most likely win to least likely win according to the ESPN FPI as it stands now.

12. Ball State – 99.4%

No surprise here. This one should effectively be a tuneup game for Notre Dame on the heels the season opening showdown with Michigan.  The Cardinals come to town for a matinee in week two and if the backups aren’t in the game in the second half, something has gone terribly wrong.

11. Vanderbilt – 97%

Another one that isn’t much of a surprise.  Vanderbilt has not been a strong program under Derek Mason – maybe that’s why he isn’t worried about this trip.  I kid, I kid.  Seriously though, this should be another tuneup game for the Irish. Having two of the three easiest games early in the season is one bit of smart scheduling.

10. Navy – 96.6%

And this is where the list gets interesting.  Has anyone that works on the FPI seen any of the latest Notre Dame – Navy games?  Navy beat the Irish two years ago on a neutral field in Jacksonville and then made it interesting again last year.  Hopefully that changes this year and we see a performance more like we saw in 2012 the last time Notre Dame truly handled the Middies.  Still, 96.6% here seems high.

9. Pitt – 93.6%

This one surprises me a bit as well.  Not that Pitt has been a juggernaut or anything, but seeing Pitt as the projected 4th easiest game of the year does surprise me.  Notre Dame gets Pitt a week after perhaps the toughest road game of the season – a likely night game in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech.   Hopefully this one proves to be true because there is a good chance for an emotional let down here.

8. Syracuse – 90.8%

Not surprising at all that this one is seen as a very likely win for Notre Dame.  It is surprising, however, ESPN gives Syracuse a slightly better chance against the Irish than Pitt.  Notre Dame didn’t have much trouble with the ‘Cuse two years ago during a historically bad year and they shouldn’t have any problem with them this year.

7. @ Wake Forest – 82.2%

The signs of Notre Dame wearing down last year started to become evident in the second half against Wake Forest when what looked like a blowout turned into a closer than it was score.  Notre Dame gets Wake earlier in the season this year and it ends a three week stretch also including Ball State and Vanderbilt.  This should be the final tuneup for the Irish right as they prepare for a showdown with Stanford.

6. Florida State – 80.3%

While the Navy game getting listed at 96.6% surprised me, this one shocked me.  I get that Florida State had a rough year in 2017 and has a new coach after Jimbo Fisher took the money and ran to Texas A&M. This is still Florida State though.  A lot of their woes last year can be attributed to losing their QB in week one and struggling to find their offense.  I really want to believe that Notre Dame should be favored by this much over the Seminoles, but I think this one is going to be really tough.

5. @ Northwestern – 77.8%

Not surprised to see a win probability over 75% for this game. Surprised to see Northwestern listed as a less likely win than Florida State.  The Wildcats could give the Irish a bit of a game, but this one shouldn’t be in doubt in the end.  Notre Dame owes Northwestern and Pat Fitzgerald a bit of payback after coughing up a late fourth quarter lead and losing to them in OT in 2014 and should get it this fall.

4. Stanford – 76.1%

It is a a bit surprising to see a win probability this high given Stanford’s recent success over Notre Dame.  Brian Kelly is just 2-6 against Stanford and Notre Dame hasn’t beaten Stanford since 2014 when Ben Koyack scored one of the most memorable touchdowns of the Kelly era.  The Cardinal will fly to South Bend in September for the first time since 2010 for an earlier than usual matchup.  Notre Dame held 2nd half leads against Stanford in each of the last three seasons, but ultimately lost all three.

3. @ Virginia Tech – 68.8%

A night game in Blacksburg very much deserves to be this high up on ESPN’s list.  Notre Dame has struggled on the road in hostile environments in recent years outside of last year’s Michigan State game.  This one will probably be a primetime kickoff and Lane Stadium will be absolutely rocking for Notre Dame’s first ever visit.  This will easily be one of the toughest games of the year for the Irish.

2. Michigan – 68.3%

The first game of the year being one of the hardest is nothing new when it involves these two rivals.  Week one will very much define Notre Dame’s season.  A win and Notre Dame is almost certainly 4-0 heading into an early season September showdown with Stanford.  A loss and the Notre Dame’s margin for error is eliminated and questions will linger about this team until that Stanford contest.

Michigan is currently a road favorite in this one, but we all also know what happened the last time the Wolverines walked into Notre Dame Stadium.   Maybe Shea Patterson will finally deliver an offense for Jim Harbaugh, but for some reason this game does not worry me as much as Stanford.

1. @ USC – 59.1%

Notre Dame blew the doors off of USC last year and the Trojans will have a new starting quarterback with Sam Darnold having moved on to the NFL.  Even with a new quarterback though, the Trojans have a stacked roster and this one figures to be one of the toughest games of the year so it’s not surprising to see ESPN giving Notre Dame its worst odds here.  Not 100% sold that this is the toughest game of the year though.

If ESPN’s projections hold close to true, Notre Dame’s tough November month of travel should at least be coming in some very winnable games.  The early season slate also shapes up very favorably after the opening weekend as well.  This of course is still all dependent on Brian Kelly and Notre Dame finally figuring out the quarterback position.  If they do, it’s starting to become pretty clear there is a chance for a very, very good season in 2018.

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  1. Fire Brian Kelly and get whom???? Go with your 4-5 choice because that is what Notre Dame will realistically get.

  2. NDcrazymike, I know you are good with special teams and defense…that’s what I meant by my post when I mentioned you. Everyone who is familiar with the program is pretty good with those units. Besides, we have Anita to tell us we have nothing on the edge, speedless at linebacker, and no cover skills at safety either, right? Reminds me of when Tennessee informed the world that we have a “holy defense”. What a cogent assessment that one was!

    BGC ’77 ’82

  3. This team seems like it’s on solid footing depth-wise for the first time in a long time. In years past, we’d be going into a season hoping a guy like Redfield was ready to play up to his potential–and if he didn’t we were done for at that position. Now it seems we have multiple options, with intra-team competition driving away players I would have though were good enough to start. This is the first time I’ve felt this under Kelly.

    The other good news to me is that we’ve got many competent bodies on both sides of the line. This has not happened a lot in the last 20 years, and each of the lines obviously has something to prove. But the bodies and the experience is there. The lines are in solid shape.

    Main concerns:
    1. Can Kelly develop a QB? They have all gotten worse over time with him, and the reserved ones seem to go backwards in a hurry. I hope Wimbush is the exception, because he’s such a great kid and has the potential to be an exceptional talent. My family is tired of my hoping-out-loud for the second coming of Randall Cunningham, but I still dream! Wimbush still can be that.
    2. Do we have an RB? I love Tony Jones’ physicality and smarts. He is solid. But he has not shown the ability to break long runs, and we really do not know who on this team can. Dex obviously could turn out to be a great back, but recent history shows that they guys with multiple strikes usually end up washing out of ND. I am rooting for him–as a person and as a player–but I am not holding my breath waiting for him to come through the tunnel. I guess it’s possible that we use Jones the way we used him last year and a new guy (Avery?) takes Dex’s role of just running the ball. But it seems like asking a bit much for a star back to come out of nowhere.

    Here’s hoping for a great year. It’s a fun schedule, and I love having a good game to watch week in, week out.

    Go irish.

  4. Seriously? With a qb that can’t complete passes, nobodies at rb, noone`s at reciever, nothing on the edge, speedless at lb, no cover skills at safety,,, please.

    1. Seriously, can’t spell, go take remedial a,b,c class. So, looks like a name change here, wondering what happened to you. What happened, did the girls team win to many games for you. Looks like a duck, writes like a duck must be a Duck.

  5. WOW I have to say im really surprised by everyones anticipation of 11/12 win season. A QB we really don’t know what to expect from ( passing ) an O-LINE that lost the left side, and receivers that are mostly inexperienced ! Not to mention RBS who starts who plays who’s suspended, is WILLIAMS gonna step up this year!! As always a tough schedule to find all this out about!! HERES HOPING FOR 12-0 GO IRISH!!!

  6. Interesting, though I’m not sure how much stock I put in these types of predictions. It can’t take into account motivations and the emotions of the players, win or lose. Have a bad game against Michigan and that can have a trickle down effect on some later games.

    I think Michigan, Stanford and USC will likely be the toughest games of the year, with Virginia Tech and Florida State coming in close as well. Stanford has given ND fits for years now. USC and Michigan will be looking for revenge since ND blew both them out in our last games together. I’ll admit, Michigan can be a bit of a question mark, but they are the first game this year so we don’t yet know what they will bring to the table.

    I agree with Pete that it’s now or never for BK. I’m at the point that I’ll believe it when I see it, that is if ND goes 11-1 or better. I’m not jumping on the ‘we’ve arrived’ bandwagon halfway through the season like I did last year. I’ll root for them to win every game of course, but I want to see them complete the season before I’ll believe they’ve turned the corner.

    If they go 9-3 or worse this year, then I think we have to face the fact that is what ND is under BK. That no matter how badly we may want it, ND is just not going to win NC’s under BK.

    1. Exactly Damian! If BK gets 11 wins this year, or more, the program will be clearly continuing the “right the ship” movement that started when the Titanic deck chairs were rearranged. If we level off at 9-3, we will not likely do BETTER than that in 2019, looking at the road schedule for that year. IMO, Now or Never, just as you noted, more or less.
      And you are right about the usual suspects: Michigan, Stanford, USC, Florida State and VT (instead of MSU). So what’s new with that? Plus a couple of good teams besides them.
      I just think that right now things are as they ought to be at ND, and this 2018 team will fight, scratch and execute its way to 11 wins. I can smell it, like a big bowl of fresh gold and green fruit salad.

      BGC ’77 ’82

      1. BGC , question is —should Kelly be Notre Dame coach in 2019 if Irish resort to 9-3 finish in 2018 regular season schedule ? 10 wins with another lower level bowl win ? Kelly needs 11-1 regular season to save his job. 10-2 maybe–but I won’t be jumping for joy on that. Kelly knows this himself—after 9 years. If the QB talent under Kelly continues to digress —I surely don’t want freshmen Jurkovic under Kelly regime during his college career.

      2. Southside, At 9-3, no, IMO. What would be the University’s motivation for keeping him on? At 10-2, with a bid to a major bowl…maybe…that would be a “mother may I take a teensy tiny step forward” type thing…let’s hope it does not happen. But I think this team is good for 11-1…I really do. NDcrazymike lists the areas of concern correctly (notice that he doesn’t list defense or special teams)…but I just think we’ve got this where it needs to be…headed in the right direction, with a solid coaching staff and a lot of talented players…and more on the way.

        PS to Southside and Duranko…maybe we could meet up at the Michigan game Pep Rally for a few minutes. Last year’s opening Pep Rally at the Rock was one of the better ones they have had in years…organized, BUT NOT choreographed to death like some of the millennial era ones were. Think about it and I’ll post on it later when I find out where it’s going to be held.

        BGC ’77 ’82

      3. Another thing Southside: If BK goes 9-3 again, I think he’ll be remembered the way “Old 8-3” Earl is remembered at Ohio State. I really do.

        BGC ’77 ’82

      4. Southside,

        If ND goes 9-3 (or worse this year) then we’ll see if ND is really serious about winning NC’s again. If they keep BK under that circumstances, that will tell you volumes about how serious they are, which is not at all. That they are satisfied with having an above average football team. That they’ve given up trying to be elite.

        I have my doubts in BK, with good reason IMO. However, I never stop hoping they go all the way.

        Go Irish!

      5. BGC I also believe ND is righting the ship, RECRUITING and THE NEW COACHES AT ND have changed the culture and CONFIDENCE of this team!! I didn’t mean to downplay the Defense or special teams, I expect them to b solid!! I just don’t know what to expect from this OFFENSE! LOVE YOUR POSTS AND CONFIDENCE B.G.C !! GO IRISH!!!

  7. Pitt and Northwestern are both out of whack. We should be favored in both, but not that lopsided. Most Michigan/Notre Dame games have been really close, often decided by whether or not a last possession field goal goes through for somebody or not. It doesn’t matter at all who is favored. Michigan has a very tough and experienced defense coming in this year. What else is news, guys? Didn’t they almost always have that, win or lose?
    Notre Dame has one of the most astounding winning percentages in college football for home openers in Notre Dame Stadium…and often against pretty good teams…not patsies every year like some schools. Going back to 1930, Holtz lost 3 home openers, Weiss lost 2, Devine lost 2, and Leahy lost 2. Everyone else lost only one in their careers, or none. We have always been tough to open against in our own stadium…that’s just a fact, boys.

    BGC ’77 ’82

    1. BGC, Wish I were there at the pep rally with you and Southside and Duranko. But, my spirit will be there with you all. Cheer, cheer for ol’ Notre Dame.

      1. Greg,
        Just do what you need to do to get well. Perhaps there will be another year.

        BGC ’77 ’82

      2. Wish I was in South Bend 9/1 weekend —but attending brother’s wedding in Lake Geneva , Wisc. Thing is , it’s his 2nd marriage , (he’s 62) — he’s going all out with huge wedding , 200 guests. Go to Vegas for a quickie for crying out loud. I’ll find a TV somewhere for ND game.

      3. Maybe some other time, Southside. When my father was still alive we had a motto in our family…”nobody gets married or buried on an ND football Saturday”. Nonetheless, may God bless your brother and his new wife!

        BGC ’77 ’82

  8. ESPN isn’t a sports network these days, they are all about entertainment and social justice. You can’t take anything they say seriously. I hope we curb stomp everyone but whoever came up with those numbers just hasn’t watched much football and hasn’t studied any of those teams.

  9. Pete,

    Couldn’t agree more with you here. This year’s schedule and the talent we have better spell playoffs otherwise Kelly is probably done.

  10. it’s now or never for Kelly. I know Swarbrick won’t do this but if Notredame is really serious about being an elite national title contender than anything short of the playoffs and Kelly should be fired.

    1. Pete, we could go 11-1 and NOT make the playoffs. It would heavily depend on what was going on in the five power conferences. If two of them were circular firing squads, we probably would make it. If not, we’d never make it! On the other hand, if we go 12-0, we are Hobson’s Choice: we’re in. Only FOUR undefeated conference champs would keep us out, and maybe not even that. So it appears from your post, you’d have Swarbrick fire Kelly for going 11-1 and getting us in, and probably winning, a New Year’s Six Bowl? That would not make sense for the University, IMO.

      BGC ’77 ’82

      1. Sorry I agree. What I mean is 3 or more losses in year 9 it should be tome for a change. I will tell you who Notre dame should go after after Kelly. I would make a run at one of the most underrated coaches in college football. PAUL CHRYST AT Wisconsin. HECK OF A COACH.

      2. Pete, I agree with you on 9-3 for this year. It would not be progress. We need to make an unqualified move upward in 2018, like we did in 2017. And I’m pretty sure that is exactly the plan out at there at du Lac.

        BGC ’77 ’82

      1. Paddy: No. 11-2 is progress…especially with Jurkovich and many others on the way for 2019. The University would look silly firing BK under those conditions. But 10-3 would be deja vu iterum adque iterum…especially when followed by the 2019 road schedule, which likely dooms hopes for anything better than a 9 win regular season that year, especially with the specter of a possible first year starter at QB that year. Many in the fanbase would be adding their voices to those who already say BK’s ceiling is around 9 or 10 wins…even with the bowl included…i.e. a chronic three game loser. IMO: it would be over for BK. On the other hand, if we make 11 or 12 wins this year, almost all of the fanbase will be happy enough to understand a slight dropoff from that achievement in 2019 with the brutal road schedule and a first year starter at QB. Then, I think, BK can finish out his contract, and possibly win a NC with Jurkovich as a junior and/or senior.

        But Paddy, I think all this will be “academic”. I see us at 11 regular season wins THIS YEAR…and possibly a playoff spot THIS YEAR. But clearly, Michigan is a must win for that to happen. But then again, what else is news? Opening against Michigan at home (or playing them in game 2 at home) has always been a “must win” for ND. We’re not in a conference. We can’t reset our goal at the start of our conference schedule like Michigan can. We need that win for both momentum, and for a “perfect” home record, which I think we have to have nowadays to get into the playoffs. We don’t have the “Ohio State pass” of losing a home opener, then annihilating a team in the conference championship game at the end of the season to “atone” for that loss later and impress the hell out of the Committee on the last day of the regular season. We probably would have gotten into the playoffs with our 2 point loss AT Clemson in 2015, had we won the Stanford game at the Farm, despite some talking heads belching nonsense before that Stanford game about Oklahoma getting in instead of us even if we beat Stanford (when we crucified a team that later in that season beat Oklahoma head-to-head).
        Remember what the Committees’ TRUE job is: It is NOT to figure out who gets into the playoffs…that’s easy…there are usually 6 or 7 worthy teams to pick from. Their job is to figure out who gets SODOMI—-:in other words – who gets left OUT of the playoffs after working their butts off for 10 months before the selections are made, and then turning in a 12 or even 13 win season. That’s the Committees’ real job, isn’t it? And that’s why this format won’t last much longer. I’ll tell you this: I don’t envy having the job they have EVERY YEAR in this format. But given this format, ND needs either an undefeated regular season, or at least only one loss against a good team on the road to get in. Otherwise, we get “the Big Hose”. Sad, but reality. We won’t get the “Clemson pass” where we lose to a “non-bowl qualifying” team and still get into the playoffs ahead of a one loss Ohio State team or an undefeated CF team. We just won’t.

        BGC ’77 ’82

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