Notre Dame Considered a Playoff Favorite in 2018?

A few weeks ago I wrote about how ESPN currently is favoring the Irish in every single game in 2018.  Well, it seems like ESPN is awfully high on Notre Dame this pre-season, because they are now listing the Irish as one of the favorites for the 2018 College Football Playoffs as well.

Yesterday the world wide leader posted a playoff predictor piece from their Analytics department. The point of the article was to show which teams had the best statistical change of making the playoffs.  Notre Dame came in at #4 with a 42% chance to make the playoffs. Reminder, the top 4 teams make the College Football Playoffs.

The only teams ahead of Notre Dame are Clemson (67%), Alabama (47%), and Georgia (46%).  All thee made the 2018 playoffs with Alabama edging out Georgia in OT for the national championship. If such a scenario played out, Notre Dame would face Clemson in a first round playoff game.

Sensing that their lofty ranking of the current #11 team in the Coaches Poll might generate some attention, ESPN went more in depth on the Irish than most teams.  Here’s a snippet of their analysis.

Notre Dame’s schedule strikes a nice balance in 2018. It’s difficult enough that a strong record would be an accomplishment and would catch the committee’s eye, but easy enough that 11-1 — probably the record it needs to accomplish — is within the realm of possibility. Of course, plenty rides on Week 1, when Notre Dame takes on Michigan. A win over the Wolverines would boost the Fighting Irish’s chances of reaching the playoff to 53 percent, while a loss would drop them to 23 percent.

Note that last line about the Michigan game.  It is not hyperbole to say that the Michigan game in September 1 is one of the most important contests in the Brian Kelly era.  A win sets up Notre Dame for a potential playoff run.  A loss and… well let’s not even think about a loss at this point yet.  It’s still early August and my confidence level is reaching irrational levels.

Speaking of the Wolverines.  Michigan is the Notre Dame opponent with the highest chance of making the playoffs according to ESPN at just 8%.  Stanford 6%, USC 2%, and Florida State < 1% were the only other Notre Dame foes in 2018 listed.

Some Notre Dame fans will undoubtably scoff at this, but a playoff run is not unrealistic at all for Notre Dame.  The Irish entered November last year in firm possession of a playoff spot before another November meltdown.  A veteran defense, a 2nd year starting QB, and a second year under Matt Balis should help mitigate the risks of that happening again this year.

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Notre Dame’s schedule – aside from the terrible decisions to move games in November away from Notre Dame Stadium – does set up nicely too.  Notre Dame will have opportunities at the beginning and end of September (Michigan, Stanford), beginning of October (at Virginia Tech), and beginning and end of November (Florida State and USC) to impress the committee.

Notre Dame still has a lot of questions to answer between now and September 1, but it is becoming more and more clear that the path to the playoffs is clearly there for Notre Dame.  What is not known at this point is whether or not Brian Kelly and Brandon Wimbush will be able to the guide the Irish down that road this fall or if we’ll encounter yet another detour like we saw last November.

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  1. Long time ND fan first time commenting. For years I always felt so ecstatic at the near beginning of the season thinking the Irish will come out showing four aces straight up. But alas, they got whipped by four aces and a joker and the season was over with the usual lack luster results. So now I save all the excitement for the first game day with no high expectations or at least not until they are at least 8-0. Go Irish!

    1. And that is the Klong-term effect of disappointment that will be the eventual ruin of the ND brand. Kelly continues this condition, and he must go before anything can change….and even then, there is still the possibility it won’t.

  2. Hate to get on the kid but if Wimbush doesn’t suddenly become accurate in his passing the Playoffs will be just a pipe dream. His inability to hit receivers in the most recent drill I saw was just f@@king brutal.

    1. Watch it….you can’t post that stuff here. This is the “Trump base” of college football.
      (SEC fans are rabid too, but at least its supported by high-level performance on the field. This here is nostalgic delusion.)

  3. There are factors which are as good as they will get for our Irish this year.

    The schedule is a positive.

    Para ejemplo, next year we play @ Georgia, Michigan and Stanford. It is plausible that the Irish have less than a 50% chance to win each of those games.

    Further, we return all that defensive talent and experience.

    If the program has an Achilles heel, it is quality and depth at DT, and starting in 2020, DE.

    Frankly, we just do not measure up to the depth and quality at those positions that Clemson, Bama, Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State (yes I included Penn State) have built up. That chicken will come home to roost in the future.

    But this year is the best chance for an outstanding Irish record in the next several.

    We shall see. Despite the prediction fetish around here there is still a reason they play the games.

    1. And we open at Louisville…an unknown quantity at this time. 2019 has a lot of big road games.

      BGC ’77 ’82

      1. Lousiville is an “unknown quantity”?….I see.
        So if you were in any way objective or rational, what would that make ND, a team that enters every season with new underclassmen starters, significant depth gaps, glaring and consistent weakness in special teams, and a QB who has yet to throw the ball consistently and on-target for one whole drive…?

  4. I agree the talent is there. Wimbush is the key. If he is much improved Notre Dame has a shot.I don’t think nd will lose any games because of their defense or special teams. It will be lack of offense production.

  5. I think the season will ride on 2 things primarily. Brandon Wimbush has a lot on his shoulders. For the team to have a shot he needs to show improvement over last year. The other is improved conditioning. I think it was clear last year that they were finished by November. They need to play at a high level all 12 games. You can go 8-0 by the time November comes around but if you lose 2 or more of the last 4 games all their dreams will go up in smoke.

    I’m pretty confident with the defense. Keeping Lea was a must because we couldn’t have another overhaul in defense. I think they showed a marked improvement under Elko and Lea comes from the same mold (though he’ll undoubtedly add his own unique spin on things). And there are a lot of veterans.

    Offense has a lot of questions, but a lot of talent as well—but it’s all about Wimbush. Can he put the ball in the right place to score. I feel pretty good about the other players, even though there’s not a lot of experience. If he can get them the ball and make the right calls I feel they can score.

    Special Teams is a big question I think also. It’s hard to predict where they will end up and I haven’t seen much on that front.

  6. The clean slate at the beginning of a sports season is a wonderful thing.
    But it should not include having your entire brain function wiped blank, too.

    Holtz teams progressed materially, noticeably and predictably from season to season, resulting in complete, team-wide confidence on Day 1.
    Kelly teams start every year as complete mysteries, with various critical areas…..QB, special teams, deep coverage, clock management, etc…..on implosion watch.

    Anyone predicting that this ND team will achieve anything is pure click bait for fools.

    1. Well David, then you must be a five star genius, because I can hardly think of a poster on this site you have not insulted many times. Just as “the Don” is the “king of debt” (using his own self-description), you sir, are the king of insults.

      BGC ’77 ’82

      1. My posts stand on their merit. As for replies, my policy is to give as good as I get. And I get mostly bullying insults from the same old clueless, pathetic fools……some of whom have yet to post an original, relevant thought.

    2. Have they formally diagnosed you as passive aggressive? If not, you should hire an attorney and get a refund, arguably with punitive damages.

      While this site has no limits for American hatebots, the more intriguing question is whether or not you actually believe that your posts have any influence on anyone.

      People here, and I’m not flyhing solo, root for the team. They root for Notre Dame’s football team. Why does that bother you?

      1. Seems that my having the freedom to have and express my own opinion bothers you into a genuine tizzy.

  7. I dug up my old “GREEN MACHINE” button from the seventies. I’ll pin it to my hat on gameday.

    And Rayjay is right…a lot depends on Brandon being ready on September 1, and he’s right about “let down” games. All teams have them, but a champion will find a way to win anyway.

    BGC ’77 ’82

      1. I would offer to have a battle of wits with u davey but why would I fight an unarmed dope like you!! stick with beer fests and the gong show you mental midget!!!

      1. Hunter , I just got back from out of town visiting kin folk. I clicked on UHND and holy Toledo —what great articles/posted comments are flooding the website . One can tell the season is upon us soon. Hunter is saying that Wimbush does need to improve—-but also saying he alone can’t get Irish to the Promise land. As numerous posters have already commented on the O , D , Special teams , players talent (returning or new blood) this past spring/summer–the agony of waiting for this match up of Michigan /Notre Dame is soon. An Irish win will be huge as a road forward—but it’s gonna take a whole team effort. If Wimbush comes out smok’in–that doesn’t mean a lock on a win. All units need to be kick’in ass — do their part. If Wimbush comes out stink’in up the joint—other units need to step up to win this game. Wimbush , alone can’t lead Irish to playoff’s .

  8. Took time to build this machine. But, the words of BK are very true after He got trounced in the national championship “ now we know what it takes to win this” Everything in place to make a bona fide run.

    1. Helluva learning schedule…3 decades into your super-lucrative career. And no evidence of getting any closer, but plenty that you’re not.

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