Revisiting Our Notre Dame Football Pre-Season Predictions

Every year I throw out some over/under predictions on the upcoming season and revisit them at the end of the year. Last year I hit on 39% of my prognostications, which I considered to be pretty good, so I’m curious to see how this season goes. There is the little wrinkle of the offense completely changing through four games with the quarterback change, but that’s the way it goes with these things. Let’s just get right into it.

Total rushing attempts for Brandon Wimbush150.5 (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.

Result: 68

Obviously with Wimbush being replaced by Book following week three against Vanderbilt, this had no chance to hit. It is interesting though that if you take his four starts and project his carries per game over an entire season, it comes out to 151.2 on the season. So it may have been right on the number! Alas, I cannot count it.

Total carries for Jafar Armstrong99.5 (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.

Result: 71

His knee injury did not help here, he missed three straight games in the middle of the season, but even projecting his carries per game, that comes out to ~95. It is a little baffling why he got so little work the last three weeks, even given the ankle injury he apparently incurred prior to Northwestern. He was suited and received work, but not nearly the volume that could have been expected. Will be interesting to watch how much work he gets in the playoffs.

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.

Result: Miles Boykin 54

Boykin beat the mark by five receptions (and I was clearly way too high on Kmet), but overall the analysis was sound. Claypool finished with 48 receptions and Finke with 47. No way they would have gotten there had Book not been inserted though.

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Total touchdowns for the tight ends4.5 (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.

Result: 6

This one hit for me, but not with the ease I predicted, with Mack hauling in three touchdowns, Weisher two, Brock Wright one. Funny enough the guy who I thought would reach the mark by himself caught none. Go figure.

Team rushing yards2,499.5 (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.

Result: 2,286

The insertion of Williams mitigated the loss of Wimbush, but this team wasn’t consistent enough to get over the 2,500 yard mark.

Total team sacks29.5 (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.
Result: 31
Got there by the skin of my teeth, but they got there. It turns out this team did have two breakout candidates at defensive end and this is what made them elite.
Tranquill + Coney combined tackles for loss25 (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.
Result: 18
Again, I had a pretty good on the defense this season as the top three finishers in tackles for loss were all on the defensive line (in order, Okwara, Tillery, and Kareem), and they all finished with double digits. The team overall finished with 73 tackles for loss, four more than the 2012 unit, and that is through 13 games for the latter unit.
Combined interceptions for Pride, Love, Crawford10.5 (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.
Result: 3
Not even close, although I could push the number to four because Nick Coleman intercepted a pass while playing the nickel spot Crawford couldn’t play due to injury. Surprising more picks didn’t come from the corners given the pressure Notre Dame was putting on this year, but the safeties made up for some of that. The team itself barely hit the over at 12, so this was disappointing from a takeaway perspective.
Total starts for Houston Griffith1.5 (under) He’ll make a spot start due to injury, but Gilman and Coleman keep their jobs.
Result: 0
He made some starts at nickel, but this was written with the thought he’d be playing safety in mind. Obviously the Crawford injury changed things. (Also this was written on August 23rd, which shows where I thought Elliott would be this season.)
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.
Result: 3rd
It all happened according to plan for the defense this year, as everything that was projected prior to the season came to fruition. It was staring us all in the face.
Justin Yoon field goal kicking percentage78% (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.
Result: 80%
Yoon finished 16-20, just over the projection I made. He steadily improved his percentage every season kicking for Notre Dame, and things could be pretty shaky without him next year.
Freshmen who play more than four contests- 5.5 (over) Kevin Austin, Shayne Simon, Bo Bauer, Houston Griffith, Jahmir Smith, Derrik Allen
Result: 7
Jayson Ademilola, Kevin Austin, Bo Bauer, Tariq Bracy, Houston Griffith, Paul Moala, Shayne Simon
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.
Result: All the wins
I never put an official number on it, I just said over, so I can officially say that I predicted 12-0 and no one can prove otherwise.
Final Tally: 8/13= 62%

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4 comments

  1. Bruce Gregory Curme 2 weeks ago

    Greg,
    The defense was there all along, and you and your writers saw it coming, as did I, Southside, GK, a few others, and especially Duranko. We all saw it coming the day Tranquil, Coney, Tillery and Bonner announced. It was so obvious then…and it was obvious that they were all coming back for a purpose other than to simply improve their draft prospects for 2019…which also fell into place BTW! They wanted a shot at an NC, and I personally believe (without first hand knowledge) that they wanted to learn a little more football in Elko’s system…which they certainly did, sans Elko of course. Time wisely spent.

    BGC ’77 ’82

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    1. Greg Kelly 2 weeks ago

      BGC, I bragged to my brother ( the #1 Notre Dame fan in SoCal) that I predicted Notre Dame to go 12-0. He replied, “ so what I predict the Irish to go 12-0 every year” Having Coney, Tillery, Love, Tranquill all back it was a no-brainer. All year long when the game got jittery they stepped up and took over the game. Gilman was playing lights out every play. As soon as the opposition was looking forward to big running play there was Gilman stopping it dead in its tracks. Reminds of Harrison Smith. I watch Him every week in frozen wasteland. Unbelievable stops made by Harry, lots highlight material. Alize Mack has to get comeback player of the year. Every one quit on his pass catching. He more than made up for that. I did see him make some great blocks.

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      1. Bruce Gregory Curme 2 weeks ago

        GK, Speaking of Aliz, all the receivers did their jobs when needed…I suspected they would after the Citrus Bowl. This was a team effort all around. Even Special Teams had a few moments, and some record challenging/setting kicking as well. The blocked extra point return was nice and punt returns got exciting. It will be interesting to me to watch “common opponents” in the conference championships vs. Ohio State (which saved itself once by running up the score in one of those) and Clemson, which scores high lately anyway. Pitt and Northwestern played us very tough…yet their opponents have more to gain than they do in some ways, though not all ways. Northwestern and Pitt have, at times, played well this year. Those two games are obvious watches for ND fans. Texas/OU would also be a watch.

        BGC ’77 ’82

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    2. southside 2 weeks ago

      BGC , well said — let’s hope the eligible players on D come back — follow the path of Tranquil , Coney , Tillery , Bonner.

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