Notre Dame Football Predictions
Notre Dame headed into the 2011 season with expectations of playing in a BCS bowl. It fell short of those expectations, however, finishing 8-5 for a second straight year under Brian Kelly.
The Fighting Irish were able to rebound from an 0-2 start by winning eight of their next nine games, but they dropped their regular-season finale at Stanford and then went down to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Turnovers haunted the Irish all season. Their minus-15 turnover margin was the 118th-worst margin in the nation.
Notre Dame finished 35th in the country in total offense in 2011, gaining 413.0 yards per game. It ranked 49th in scoring with 29.2 points per game. Cutting down on their 29 giveaways will go a long way toward improving these numbers.
Junior quarterback Tommy Rees showed flashes while completing 65.5 percent of his throws for 2,871 yards and 20 touchdowns. However, he was responsible for 19 of the team’s turnovers. He threw 14 interceptions and lost five fumbles.
If Rees ends up getting the starting nod again in 2012, an experienced line and talented crop of running backs will help give him an opportunity to succeed.
Junior left tackle Zack Martin, junior guard Chris Watt and senior center Braxston Cave are all back up front. They provide adequate protection for Rees and plenty of running room for junior running back Cierre Wood, who ran for 1,102 yards and nine scores last year. Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III are also capable runners.
It bodes well for the Irish that opponents must respect their running game. That’s because the loss of wide receiver Michael Floyd, the school’s all-time leading receiver, will be felt. Junior tight end Tyler Eifert, who had 63 receptions for 803 yards and five touchdowns in 2011, should emerge as the top target this season. Wide receivers TJ Jones, John Goodman and Robby Toma are being counted on to step up as well.
Notre Dame finished 24th in the country in scoring defense in 2011, giving up 20.7 points per game. It ranked 30th in total defense, allowing 344.7 yards per game. The Irish have the potential to improve on those numbers if they can find a way to replace defensive end Aaron Lynch, who transferred to South Florida.
Two starters are back on the defensive line, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Louis Nix III, but neither is the playmaker Lynch is.
A linebacker corps that returns three starters is anchored by stud inside linebacker Manti Te’o. The senior came up with 128 tackles and five sacks last season.
Concerns linger at the cornerback position following the departure of Robert Blanton. The safety position, however, should be sound with Jamoris Slaughter and Zeke Motta.
Independents Prediction: 1st Place
I expect Notre Dame to do a better job of valuing the football this season. Still, getting past the eight-win mark won’t be easy given the schedule.
The Fighting Irish have matchups with Michigan, Stanford, Michigan State, USC and Oklahoma – teams that won at least 10 games last season. Of these five, Michigan, USC and Oklahoma appear to have national championship chances while Stanford and Michigan State should take a step back after losing NFL quarterbacks.
If Notre Dame is able to finish the regular season 9-3, it would have to be considered a major success.
|Navy||New Mexico State||Notre Dame|
|ACC||Big 12||Big East||Big Ten|
|Conference USA||Independents||MAC||Mountain West|