Notre Dame Football: OFD Staff Predictions for 2013

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The OFD staff ventures a guess (or twelve) about the emotional status of fans everywhere this fall.

It's that time of year again-the OFD staff puts their screen names and reputations on the line by firing up the trusty crystal ball and predicting where the 2013 Irish will finish their regular season. I had the distinct honor of compiling the prognostications this year, partially because I volunteered and partially because of this little gem from last year:

Jim Miesle says: (11-1)

This record may seem to be overly optimistic at first glace, but I think the Irish are primed for a break-out year in Brian Kelly's 3rd season at the helm. Much has been said about the difficult slate of games, but I feel it sets up rather nicely for Notre Dame. They start the year with two ideal games to break in a new quarterback (although that remains to be seen). Michigan State, Stanford and even Michigan are primed to take a step back from their successes in 2011 due to key losses for each team. The Irish only face four true road games, with the two most difficult coming in late October and late November against Oklahoma and USC, respectively. The lone loss I am predicting will come in Norman, as it is a difficult place to play and the Sooners run an offense that Notre Dame isn't very familiar with. By season's end, I think the schedule will have turned out to be more manageable than it looked in August and Notre Dame ends up with a BCS date in early January.

Now on to the predictions for this fall's edition of Notre Dame football:

alstein

Regular Season Record: 11-1

Someone's gotta do it. I don't like doing the comparison to last year's team or saying they got kinda lucky here, here, and here so they'll drop a couple this time; it just never seems to work that way. This is what it comes down to for me. This team does not really have a weakness. They return 8 defensive starters from one of the best defenses the school has ever had and have about a hundred guys actually competing for the next men in (Werewolfs excepted). Same goes for offense. Top 2 RBs leave? Oh, here's 6 replacements, including one who averaged 7 ypc last season. Two offensive linemen are graduated (and not the good ones, either)? Here's 5 new guys with a legitimate shot to start. Best TE ever leaves? Well, at least we have four more, including one who flips blocking sleds in his spare time. Even the quarterback is suspended and he is replaced by the 7th all-time leading passer in school history. Every game is very winnable; every opponent has obvious areas that can be exploited. How do you exploit the Irish? I'm not really seeing much, and for the first time in a long time, I'm not all that worried about replacing guys that leave. It's just a very well-rounded roster with depth and athleticism everywhere. That's a BCS team to me.

burger23

Regular Season Record: 8-4

If Golson was still the quarterback I would predict ten wins, but I just don't believe in Tommy Rees. That 2011 offense was painful to watch, culminating in the crapfest that was the Stanford and Florida State games. The 2012 offense wasn't really much better, but we at least had a dynamic playmaker and budding star under center. I just don't see a Tommy Rees-led team beating Stanford, Oklahoma, Michigan, or USC. You can sub out any of those teams for BYU or Arizona State or Michigan State if you want, I suppose. But either way, I think this season is remembered as a missed opportunity when Mr. Nix and (maybe) Mr. Tuitt leave for the NFL.

CW

Regular Season Record: 10-2

Initially I was going to say 9-3, but this defense is going to be really, really good. Rees has his limitations, yes, but he went 8-4 as a starter in 2011 and now has the benefit of one of the best defenses in football and a left tackle/left guard combination that most teams dream about. On offense, the skill positions are somewhat questionable outside of TJ Jones, but it's just a matter of who is going to step up with the plethora of weapons available. (I could envision Bryant and Folston doing their best Gurley/Marshall impression out of the backfield.) I'll predict a loss to either Michigan or USC and then the Stanford game. It's going to be a fun season.

Eric Murtaugh

Regular Season Record: 9-3

I can see a loss at Michigan early, a season-ending defeat at Stanford, plus another game dropped somewhere in the 3-game span of Oklahoma, Arizona State, and USC. I'm not that down on the offense with Rees back at quarterback but I don't think any improvement on that side of the ball is capable of this team going any better than 10-2. We'll play it safe---athletes like Bryant, Carlisle, Atkinson, and Folston won't be given enough of the focus---and inevitably there will be a couple games where we simply cannot run the ball which will lead to losses. To me, the wildcard is the defense which could get even better and carry the team to a BCS game. With just a couple new starters coming in and playing at a high level I think it's possible this program makes another run at something special. I'll stick to 9 wins, though. Who knows what meaningless exhibition game Notre Dame plays in but I'll predict lots of complaining about the raw deal with the ACC, even with a bowl win. 2014 off-season complaint No. 1, you heard it here first!

fishoutofwater

Regular Season Record: 9-3

Last season, I predicted an 8-4 finish and we went 12-1, so my 9-3 prognostication guarantees we go 13-0, right? With Stanford, Oklahoma, Michigan, and USC on the docket, challenges from Michigan State and ASU, and vivid memories of close-calls going our way against BYU and Pitt in 2012, it is just hard for me to see a path to double-digit wins. Yes, the defense will be stout - maybe even stronger than last season's, overall - but holding teams out of the end zone with such success is a tall order. Yes, we will have an excellent offensive line and great potential at receiver and running back; we will have experience and ability at quarterback, but we all know - as do our opponents - where Tommy Rees's talents might constrain our red zone-challenged offense. I'll take a stronger-than-the-record-shows 9-3 until the Irish put together consecutive seasons of double-digit wins and prove that 2012 was the beginning of genuine, sustained success.

4pointshooter

Regular Season Record: 10-2

Frankly I was closer to making this 11-1 than 9-3. I'm generally not a super optimist when it comes to Notre Dame football - being on campus for the 07-09 Weis years will do that to you - but I believe the negative energy that started with the loss against Alabama all the way to the suspension of Everett Golson has now been curbed and the team will be able to show who they are on the field.

I believe ND will be favored in its first 11 games and will have enough offensive juice or defensive stops to emerge from the Michigan-Michigan State-Oklahoma-USC scenario at 3-1. It's just tough to emerge from that 4-0.

They should be favored by at least one score in every other game and I think they'll live up to it - though BYU could throw a wrench if they're as disciplined on defense this season as they were last season.

The season will likely end in a loss at Palo Alto against an elite Stanford team but 10-2 and a BCS berth should definitely lead into hopefully a much more positive spring and along with the return of Golson, and growth of the tremendous young talent, be the foundation for another title run in 2014.

Jim Miesle

Regular Season Record: 10-2

The Irish are coming off what many view as an overachieving 2012 season, but Brian Kelly and his staff have the foundation laid for an extended stay near the top of the polls. I expect some improvement in the offensive production even with the loss of QB Everett Golson due suspension. The defense should also improve in a few categories, but is likely to regress slightly in points per game allowed. Without the dynamic Golson under center and getting fewer fortuitous bounces on defense, Notre Dame will probably drop a close game or two along the way. A 10-2 record should put them into another BCS game--most likely the Fiesta Bowl unless Oklahoma wins the Big 12.

The key to the 2013 season for the Irish is turning field goals into touchdowns early in games. Two or three score leads in the second half will allow the staff to rest key players and get valuable experience for the younger players-something that will pay dividends both in November and in future seasons.

JoeSchu

Regular Season Record: 9-3

Getting to double digit wins in 2013 requires Coach Brian Kelly's group to get through the @Mich, MSU, USC, OU, @Stanford gauntlet above .500. That's a tall order. 2011 was the year of the bad bounce. 2012 was the year of "Deal With It Jesus." I have to believe that 2013 regresses to the mean in the "luck" column. While the defense appears even deeper and will be extremely well coached, I think the offense puts them in too many difficult situations to keep up last year's insane statistics. Braxton Cave will be missed more than people realize, and I fear every 3rd and long will see the dreaded TR kryptonite defense without Eifert/Floyd to bail them out. 9-3 will be a successful year, but will make for a complex bowl situation in November.

Larz

Regular season record: 10-2

Right now it appears that the Irish will be the overcats in every game this year except for the final game in Stanford. There's no question that the schedule is difficult, but Notre Dame is capable of beating every team on the 2013 slate. This is a result of the improvements we have seen in the program as a whole. While there is a lot of talk about individual players and specific positions, the bottom line is the program is in better shape than it has been in many years. The entire coaching staff is back, recruiting has been very good and most importantly our players know how to win. This last part can't be overstated. The experience of going undefeated in the regular season and playing in the BCS Championship game will pay dividends for the Irish this year and for years to come. That's the good news. The bad news, it's incredibly difficult to go undefeated two years in a row. Therefore, I think the Irish will falter at home against Oklahoma and on the road against Stanford. Overall I think the arrow is pointing up for Notre Dame football and I wouldn't be stunned to see the Irish run the table in 2013.

Mouth of the South

Regular Season Record: 12-0

Because I won't be out-optimistized, alstein. As per usual, the 'steiner said what I wanted to/would have said, but better. I mean, who am I supposed to be worried about? Last year we handled Michigan with the 'Nard Dog; sans the Chronicles of 'Nardia I'm less concerned. State is spinning their wheels in Dantonio's whatever-eth year. Oklahoma, what you want I should worry? I don't think they have a whole lot of talent on defense, and Stoopses's offenses are QB-driven. Arizona State, I'll be up in that piece, and I am on a 1-0 road streak that I'm going to continue. SC is finally starting to feel the pinch. I'm not crazy worried about their anything. We could stumble against Pitt or BYU, because for some reason, we really play down to them. But I think we continue to grow and kick ace when we should kick ace. That's the next step in our evolution. To be sure, Stanford should be tough. I really like and respect their brand of football. But the smot kids graduated Chase Thomas, and that alone makes me feel a LOT better. Why the coaching staff let Troy Niklas cut his pass-blocking teeth on Chase Thomas I will never know, but I digress. Stanford should be a game, but I think we'll be playing some strong ball by then. To build off of alstein's comment, I also disagree with the truism that last year's team "got kinda lucky here, here, and here so they'll drop a couple this time." That could be true, or maybe our offense struggled last year and will improve this year, and we won't need an insane missed field goal or four stops inside the 2 yard line in two different games. Maybe the offense says "EXCELSIOR. Excelsior," and just moves ever upward--I know I'm a few months behind on this, but man, Silver Linings Playbook was an awesome movie--and maybe the defense maintains. EXCELSIOR. 12-0. Excelsior.

pburns2010

Regular Season Record: 9-3

The for-sures: Temple, @Purdue, @AF, Navy, @Pitt. Notre Dame has no business having any trouble with these teams. Of the five, Pitt most likely has the best chance to give us some headaches, simply because it's their Super Bowl.

The shaky wins: Arizona St., USC. Notre Dame should win these games, but they're going to be closer than we would like. Despite the fact that Kiffykins is still calling the plays at Southern Cal, our team is going to need to play big to avoid a 2011-style under the lights meltdown.

The 50-50s: @Michigan, MSU, Oklahoma, BYU. I can easily see Notre Dame losing two of these games (most likely MSU and Oklahoma if I had to guess). Michigan will play out of their minds, and the Big House will be rocking for the second UTL game of their history. BYU rolls into town at the end of a long season, where the ND boys (if ranked highly) may be staring down a top-10 matchup the next weekend.

The shaky loss: @Stanford. There's about 20 ways I can see Stanford winning this game, but all of them revolve around just how good their defense, especially their linebacker corps, will be playing. If ND comes into this game with a BCS berth on the line, it will be a true test for the Irish to see if they deserve it.

The season "main keys":

On offense, limit the turnovers from the QB position first and foremost. Use your offensive line to open things up in the passing game, and make the easy throws. Getting the ball to athletes in space will be more important this year now that there is no Eifert safety valve. I expect the offense to be efficient enough for us to be competitive.

On defense, keep doing what you're doing. As much as I want it, I can't see Bobby Diaco dialing up more zero blitzes and man coverage schemes -- unless the offense is bad enough to require the defense to make some plays. If that happens, I think we may start seeing a snowball effect and a rough season for CBK and the Irish.

[I really think 10-2 is probably more realistic, but I'm not going to let one good season ruin the pessimism and dourness that being a Notre Dame fan from 2000-2011 has built into me. We're probably going to drop an extra game that we have no business dropping.]

Whiskey

Regular Season Record: 10-2

Preseason predictions are difficult. One can dig into the roster, examine the schedule, and attempt to predict the impossible. At the end of the day preseason predictions are little more than a base of knowledge about a team, their schedule, and a healthy dash of the completely unpredictable. Untimely mistakes, bad calls, crazy weather, Divine intervention, and a host of other "little things" can mean the difference between a win and a loss. This is why winning all 12 of them is so insanely difficult no matter how good you are.

Brian Kelly and his staff have rebuilt the program in a way that it will be able to compete at the highest level for the foreseeable future. Even without Everett Golson the 2013 Fighting Irish will be no exception. This is going to be a very good football team that will be capable of winning every game that they play this fall. Will they? I think that is highly unlikely. The schedule is littered with competitive teams and there is a particularly tough stretch in the middle. At the end of the day I expect that the Irish will drop a couple of close ones along the way. I expect to see a close loss in a "big game" and a letdown somewhere where a game like 2012 Pitt goes the other way.

Getting into a BCS game and winning will be considered a success. Anything less and we can cue up the off-season debate machine. I think ND will win 10, get into the BCS and pick up a W to finish 11-2.

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