Al Dannity has spent the last few weeks breaking down his preseason Top 25 but, to the surprise of no-one, one of the biggest brands in College Football missed the cut. Seeing as so many of you love them and way more of you hate them, here’s Al’s look at the year ahead for the Fighting Irish.
The schedule In a word, brutal. After their Dublin, Ireland start against Navy, the Fighting Irish have a run of Purdue, at Michigan State, Michigan, a neutral site game with Miami, Stanford, BYU, and at Oklahoma. A 1-7 start is not beyond the realms of possibility. Anything better than 3-5 would be huge. From there things get easier in so much as a game with a solid Pittsburgh outfit can be considered easy. Then comes a trip to Boston College, a home date with Wake Forest, and the season ends on the west coast against USC.
The players For all the difficulties ahead of them, it’s not like the Irish lack talent. They bring back 15 returning starters between offense and defense and Michael Floyd is the only significant loss from last year. The massive questions at quarterback however will worry Domers. Gunner Kiel should solve that eventually but for now Everett Golson has the job. In tight end Tyler Eifert and linebacker Manti Te’o the Fighting Irish possess two players with the talent to succeed at the next level. The problem is the lack of elite bodies around them. Cierre Wood is a serviceable running back but he begins the season under suspension. There are plenty of good bodies but not so many great ones. The much vaunted recruits from the end of the Charlie Weis era haven’t lived up to their hype and potential.
The outlook As with every team there are multiple scenarios for Notre Dame. Primarily fans hope for the best case, fear the worst case, and think about the most likely case but then add another win or two. In these previews I’ve sought to give a more balanced perspective to aid bettors. With Notre Dame the best case scenario would see them start 4-1, splitting the Wolverines and Spartans games, and then falling to Stanford and Oklahoma before running off three wins. If they go to the Coliseum and the Trojans are healthy, they can’t expect a win, but if USC are feeling the effects of a tightened roster then an upset should be possible. Either way, this promises to be the most fascinating line on Notre Dame’s schedule when it’s posted. The worst case is that aforementioned 1-7 start with Pitt and the Trojans also winning, condemning the Irish to a 3-9 season. For me reality sits right in between. Bowl eligibility will probably require a sweep of Miami, Pitt, and BYU. That’s reasonable to expect with this roster. I like the Fighting Irish to finish 6-6.
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