Are you ready for some hot takes? Let’s do some takes.
Let’s be honest, we all have our guesses; some are educated, and some are hunches based on nothing in particular, but we’ve all got them. I’m going to put mine on the internet to be made fun of later, which makes me incredibly brave*.
(*It is in no way brave.)
It’s taken me some time to get a good feel for this team. Has Book gotten better in the pocket and with his deep ball? The reports are somewhat mixed, and all most of us have seen since the Cotton Bowl is the Blue-Gold scrimmage and that likely means close to nothing. Who is the lead back? How do the receivers look beyond Claypool and Finke? Is the offensive line going to be demonstrably better than last season? It took time to get answers here, but I think I’ve ingested enough content to throw out some piping hot, likely terrible takes for the people.
Ian Book Will Complete 70% Of His Passes
Last season, Ian Book set a Notre Dame single-season record with a .682 completion percentage, besting Jimmy Clausen from 2009 by .002 percentage points. The conventional wisdom is Book’s percentage will drop in 2019, with more of a focus on throwing the deep ball, thus lowering his percentage level. I’m going the other way with this. I think he’s more likely to throw deep less; he’ll be more accurate when he does so.
Book is too seasoned to simply take shots just to take shots, especially with guys like Chris Finke, Lawrence Keys, and Michael Young able to find openings underneath. Those players are more than good enough to make plays after the ball is caught and Book, with a season under his belt, is accurate enough to get them the ball in spots where they can run after the catch.
Another factor here is the two lead backs–Jafar Armstrong and Tony Jones Jr.–are very well known for their pass-catching ability, and any time they are in the game they are a threat to catch the ball. A big tight end like Cole Kmet, with a huge catch radius, will not hurt the cause when he returns. Ian Book will be thrilled to take what the defense gives him most of the time and pick his deep shots when they present themselves. Hopefully this season those shots are more successful. I also have a sneaky suspicion Notre Dame emphasizes the screen game more this season than last, but we’ll see.
No Running Back Exceeds 800 Yards Rushing This Season
During the 2012 season, Theo Riddick ran for 917 yards, Cierre Wood 742, George Atkinson 361, and Everett Golson 298. I see the 2019 rotation playing out somewhat similar, except I don’t think either lead back will play in 13 games as Riddick did in 2012. There were high hopes for Armstrong posting strong stats post-spring game, but that position has evolved into much more of a time share. In addition to that, Jahmir Smith has shown he is more than capable of giving the team quality carries throughout the season, and the staff has been raving about Kyren Williams.
Another factor is the likelihood of a fair number of blowouts. New Mexico and Bowling Green will be laughers, Louisville could be over early, and Navy doesn’t look particularly good at the moment. That leads to mop-up time for the backups and fewer opportunities for the top two.
Claypool And Finke Both Catch 70+ passes
Michael Floyd and Tyler Eifert combined for 163 receptions in 2011, so production like this has happened before, and of all the Notre Dame receiving options, these are the only two sure-fire going to be in the lineup all the time guys. Lawrence Keys will be in and out of the lineup due to different sets, Michael Young will be integrated at some point, as will Kevin Austin. Finke and Claypool are the mainstays and have spent the most time with Book in their time on campus. To get to this number each player would have to haul in just over five receptions per game over a 13 game season and given how much emphasis will be placed on Book throwing the ball and the quick game, I think these two reach that benchmark.
The Offense Will Break The Notre Dame Single Season Scoring Record
To be clear, I’m talking about the modern record set by the 1968 team at 37.6 points per game, not the all-time record of 55.6 points set in 1912, which I feel is unfortunately out of reach. There has been talk of this all offseason, and I’ve mostly shot it down; I didn’t believe the team would be explosive enough. But, figuring that Book will feast on most defenses that aren’t Georgia and Michigan, they’ve added an explosive element to the offense with Keys, Young, Claypool, and Lenzy, and the most significant x-factor of all, a defense that is likely to create a ton of turnovers with their pass rush. It’s a bit of a cheat to bring it up in this section, but a healthy amount of defensive touchdowns and red zone opportunities are likely to present themselves with the monsters we have coming for opposing teams.
In truth, I didn’t realize I felt this way about the offense until I submitted my season predictions to the site and saw I had them at 38.5 points per game. So, there you have it.