Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is going to address the media later today to talk Notre Dame’s week one opponent Louisville. Before he does, Greg and I wanted to go on the record again this preseason with our game by game picks for the entire season. So here we go, let’s project the entire season week by week.
Game 1: @ Louisville
Frank: Louisville was not a good football team in 2018. They were so not good that they now have a new head coach. Sometimes a new coach can come out with a bang in week one. See the case of one Charlies Weis at Notre Dame in 2005. I don’t think that is the case. Notre Dame QB Ian Book comes out firing this weekend and Notre Dame cruises to a relatively easy victory ala the 2017 season opener vs. Temple.
Notre Dame 41, Louisville 17
Greg: They’ve got a new coach who is good enough to make this a contest Notre Dame needs to prepare for, but this isn’t a game a playoff team from the previous year should lose. The program will be ready, Notre Dame is historically good in openers, and I don’t expect the Louisville fans to be the type of ruckus to affect the football team. The theme of the season is “Road Warriors” anyway, so it plays right in.
Notre Dame 38, Louisville 13
Game 2: vs. New Mexico
Frank: Bob Davie always struggled to win football games in Notre Dame Stadium. He isn’t going to start winning their now – especially if he does deploy a four quarterback system. That sounds like the old Bob Davie we remember, doesn’t it? Notre Dame comes off a week two bye game to send Davie out of Notre Dame Stadium unhappy once again.
Notre Dame 49, New Mexico 10
Greg: Bob Davie will get a first-hand look at a program he probably won’t recognize from his time at Notre Dame. New stadium, new practice facility, a real program. This will be destruction from start to finish; it’s a miracle Davie is even around to coach given how shoddy his team was last season.
Notre Dame 55, New Mexico 10
Game 3: @ Georgia
Frank: Everyone knows this is a make or break game for the 2019 season for Notre Dame. The health concerns of WR Michael Young and TE Cole Kmet could leave Notre Dame underhanded, but the bigger concern here is the middle of the Notre Dame defense. Georgia’s power running game will be too much for Notre Dame’s rebuilt interior defense, and the Irish offense will not be able to keep pace.
Georgia 24, Notre Dame 13
Greg: A lot depends on whether Cole Kmet and Michael Young are healthy enough, although more likely only one of them is. Either way, I think the outcome is the same. Georgia can do what perhaps no other team on the schedule can, which is out physical Notre Dame. They’ve got the best line in the country, a stable of backs, an experienced quarterback, and they are at home. Winning this game will require a performance from Book that just may not be there, given then rest of the roster.
Georgia 27, Notre Dame 17
Game 4: vs. Virginia
Frank: While everyone is pointing to the Georgia game is the make or break game of the year, this might actually be the turning point of the season. Virginia is good enough to beat Notre Dame if they limp into this one wounded following the battle with Georiga in Athens. If Notre Dame is not careful, the Cavaliers could derail the Irish’s season. Lose this game, and a four-loss season isn’t out of the question. WR Michael Young scores the game-winner in his return to action for the Irish here.
Notre Dame 27, Virginia 24
Greg: A gut check game having just come off of a loss against a team with a good coach, a good quarterback, and a very good secondary. Maybe another team falters in the spot, but I don’t think so here. Notre Dame hasn’t lost at home since Georgia in 2017, and Notre Dame is playing for their season in this one. It’ll be a tough game, but the Irish prevail.
Notre Dame 35, Virginia 24
Game 5: vs. Bowling Green
Frank: Even if Notre Dame doesn’t have its best game, this game is a perfect tune-up for USC. The Irish offense gets back on track against Bowling Green after a couple of sluggish weeks.
Notre Dame 52, Bowling Green 14
Greg: It’ll be a massacre, back up QB Phil Jurkovec will throw a couple of touchdown passes to Kevin Austin in his first action, Kyle Hamilton sets an Irish record with four interceptions in a game.
Notre Dame 62, Bowling Green 13
Game 6: vs. USC
Frank: The last time visited South Bend, Notre Dame blew the Trojans out of the water. Depending on how USC’s early-season goes, this could be the case again this year. Notre Dame should have beaten USC by much more than they did a year ago and while I don’t see a 2017 style beatdown in the cards, I don’t expect Notre Dame to need a long Tony Jones Jr screen pass for a touchdown in the 4th to win either. Notre Dame has USC seeing more green than just what’s in the stands.
Notre Dame 38, USC 17
Greg: So many variables with USC here, who could conceivably be led by an interim coach at this point. I’ll assume they are the best version of themselves for this analysis though and fortunately for Notre Dame the things they want to do, pass and play wide open, allow Notre Dame to get their weakest defenders out of the game (the linebackers) and allow Kyle Hamilton and Shaun Crawford to enter. Plus, the more opportunities for our defensive ends to rush the passer, the better. As I eluded to with Georgia, if you want to beat Notre Dame you have to beat them up, and USC can’t do that.
Notre Dame 35, USC 21
Game 7: @ Michigan
Frank: The Big House has been a house of horrors for Notre Dame over the last 20 years. I am not buying the Michigan hype though, and Notre Dame has a bye week to prepare. The media has bought so much into Jim Harbaugh that they’ll probably still hype them even after Notre Dame goes into the Big House and walks out as the victors. DE Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem are going to make things real uncomfortable for Shea Patterson.
Notre Dame 31, Michigan 17
Greg: Given the venue in Ann Arbor, this game will be close, but this is the contest where Book cements his legacy at Notre Dame. Michigan will stack the box and play man defense with a single safety daring Book to beat them, and Book will do just that with all of his weapons at his disposal. Michigan changed offensive coordinators, which is fun I guess, but they didn’t get tougher with the move, and the strength is their passing game, which again, is not the way to beat Notre Dame in 2019.
Notre Dame 28, Michigan 24
Game 8: vs. Virginia Tech
Frank: Just like a year ago, the Virginia Tech game worries me more than the Michigan game. Wolverine fans took a lot of umbrage with my pre-season prediction of that last year, and I’m sure they will this year. The Hokie defense will not be as bad as it was a year ago and Notre Dame won’t have Dexter Williams running for 97-yard touchdowns this year. It won’t be enough for Virginia Tech to win in South Bend again, but it will be closer this year.
Notre Dame 27, Virginia Tech 24
Greg: This is a tricky one. Notre Dame just got through the toughest part of their schedule, they return home likely ranked in the top 10, and Tech hasn’t been good for a couple of years. On paper, no problem, but we know in every season there is always one. If there is a letdown game, it comes this week, when Tech will bring an experienced quarterback and a good defense. Will they win the letdown game of 2019? I say, yes.
Notre Dame 27, Virginia Tech 20
Game 9: @ Duke
Frank: Notre Dame has settled some scores from the 2016 season. They got USC, Navy, Michigan State, and NC State in 2017 and Virginia Tech and Stanford last year. They get revenge on Duke in November.
Notre Dame 42, Duke 17
Greg: A lot of people see this as an upset special because of Cutcliffe, but no. You can’t beat Notre Dame this year with a green quarterback. The Irish will come off of their letdown the previous week with a stellar offensive performance, and this one will be a laugher.
Notre Dame 48, Duke 24
Game 10: vs. Navy
Frank: Notre Dame had a hard time putting away the Midshipmen in 2018, and unfortunately I see that happening again this year. Notre Dame’s November isn’t quite as daunting as it was a year ago, but this just has the feel of one of those November games in which Notre Dame struggles, wins ugly, and then has everyone talking about how they aren’t elite.
Notre Dame 31, Navy 21
Greg: The wheels are falling off for the Midshipmen. What used to be a high powered offense with a surprisingly stingy defense is now an annoying offense with a weak defense. For the time being, it seems like Navy won’t be giving us all the scare they have in previous years.
Notre Dame 45, Navy 20
Game 11: vs. Boston College
Frank: Boston College coming to Notre Dame Stadium late in the year with Notre Dame wearing special uniforms, what could possibly go wrong? What’s worrisome here is Boston College will come to town with an elite running back. If the Eagles come into South Bend in late November and try to play keep away from Notre Dame, I could see a game similar to Pitt 2018 where the Panthers tried beat Notre Dame with a thousand papercuts.
Notre Dame 31, Boston College 17
Greg: BC with a good offense and a weak defense? That’s what might be coming to South Bend just before Thanksgiving, and preseason All-American AJ Dillon ‘ll lead them at running back. It’ll also be Senior Day, so there is all the nostalgia that goes along with that. This late in the season any number of unknown factors will play into the outcome here, but we aren’t losing to these fellas at 9-1 and likely with a chance at another playoff berth.
Notre Dame 34, Boston College 17
Game 12: @ Stanford
Frank: Notre Dame has not beaten Stanford on the road under Brian Kelly. Last year the Irish finally beat up on a down Stanford team after they squandered multiple opportunities to do so in the past. This is the year that Notre Dame finally takes care of the Cardinal in Palo Alto.
Notre Dame 35, Stanford 20
Greg: Again, who knows where Stanford is at this point in the season, but it comes down to this: Just as in 2015, will Notre Dame sitting at 10-1, and likely in the picture for a playoff berth go into Palo Alto and blow the season in their final game? I say no, no matter how good Stanford is*.
*Reasonably. If they are undefeated or sporting one loss, then the analysis may change.
Notre Dame 38- Stanford 30
And there you have it. Greg and I are both predicting an 11-1 regular season for Notre Dame. If that happens, Notre Dame will be on the fringe of College Football Playoff debate. Will it get them there? I don’t think so – even if Georgia is one of the top teams. That is unless there are a lot of one-loss teams at the end of the year. Recency bias will work against an 11-1 Notre Dame team – especially if they have a close call in November which is very possible. If Greg and I are both correct though, there will be a lot of fun debates that first week of December.