The following is the third chapter from the Preseason Digital Magazine covering Notre Dame football for the 2012 season. You can buy the eBook on Kindle for just 99¢ by clicking HERE or by clicking on the widget on the left side of our main page. It's really a tremendous value and we urge you to check it out.
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After initially deciding that the whole staff at OFD should predict the final regular season record of the Irish, we thought, why not explain those predictions a little more?
So we did.
There's some brimming optimism but also a couple sobering predictions as well. Up first, El Presidente of this ship we call One Foot Down.
Whiskey says: (10-2)
At first glance I thought it would be 9-3, but I think Stanford is going to be a little more beatable that I originally thought. The schedule is tough but I think it is set up in a way that is as friendly as possible for ND. The Irish should be able to work out the kinks in week 1 and 2 vs. Navy and Purdue prior to traveling to East Lansing. I think Michigan State will play ND tough, but ND should win that game. That sets up for a huge game against Michigan under the lights in week 4. This game will get hyped even more than the one last year but I think ND will show up this time and take a big step forward by getting the W. From there I think the come off the bye week and beat Miami at Soldier Field and also take care of business against Stanford to get to 6-0.
This sets up BYU as a classic trap game with Oklahoma on the schedule the following week but I think ND squeaks by BYU to set up a huge game in Norman. Once there I think the Irish will finally face a team, and a quarterback, that will be able to expose their weaknesses. I think ND will play OU tough but lose by 2 touchdowns. From there I think they bounce back and rip off wins against Pitt, BC, and Wake setting up another huge game with BCS implications at the Coliseum. Once there I think Barkley takes a page out of the Landry Jones book and knocks off ND in a close one. If it goes down like this the 10-2 Irish will be a fringe BCS team.
Eric Murtaugh says: (9-3)
What's the difference with one extra win? I'd say probably a whole lot with this schedule in 2012. In many ways, expecting 9-3 seems wildly optimistic. With a schedule without any truly weak teams, it means one of the most consistent Notre Dame seasons in 20 years. It means beating just about every team on the schedule that the Irish are supposed to beat, and if not that, upsetting an elite team or two. Either way, Notre Dame football hasn't exhibited the ability to do either of those things in a long time. Nevertheless, I think teams like Michigan State, Stanford, and BYU are going to take a step back just enough to turn this schedule from an unholy terror into something quite manageable. I'm betting on the Irish figuring out the quarterback position and putting together a fine season, but one that will still leave the program with many questions to answer.
Chris Wilson says: (8-4)
I'm going to say Notre Dame falls to Michigan (I will predict the Irish lose to the Wolverines until the clock strikes zero with them in the lead, and even then I'll be skeptical), at Oklahoma (top-five team on the road) and Southern Cal (top-five team on the road who is also a rival). It seems unwise to think Brian Kelly's bunch will be able to run the table against Michigan State, Miami (FL), BYU and Stanford, so I'll assume they drop one of those. This record, combined with what I'm sure will be a season-long quarterback controversy, means that next offseason will be just as muddled and tense as this one was.
alstein says: (10-2)
What can I say? I'm optimistic about this team. The way I see it, Notre Dame plays 6 teams (Navy, Purdue, Miami, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, and Boston College) that, while they may not seem like cupcakes, are in the bottom half of all of college football. Those have to be wins, plain and simple. Then we move into the next tier, which likely only involves BYU, but for my money includes Michigan State as well. MSU lost a lot of key players on either side of the ball and don't exactly have blue chippers stepping in. They are well-coached and should still win a bunch of games, but the Irish manhandled a much better version of the Spartans last year. And BYU, well, I'd like to see any compelling reason why them beating up on a crappy schedule means they will beat ND.
Then we move into the Michigan/Stanford tier. I still cannot believe the Irish have lost any of the previous three games against the Wolverines, but hey, they have. I don't have to believe there is any "voodoo" in this matchup. ND has looked like the better team except for a couple meltdowns, so I vote for the better team to win. STOP MELTING DOWN. And Stanford. In the last two seasons, no team has beaten the Irish more soundly than Stanford. And it's not like Andrew Luck took over either game. Stanford has lost a ton this offseason, but I have this one in the loss column until further notice.
Then the final tier. The teams we should all be afraid of. Meh. USC and Oklahoma. Both on the road. As it stands now, we have to consider USC a loss. But a two or less loss ND team has a better chance in that one than it may seem now. ND was a lousy goal-line fumble away from tying that one going into the fourth. And Oklahoma. I've got a win here. ND HOMER!!! Landry Jones is not that good, folks. He has thrown 14, 12, and 15 interceptions in his three seasons. His completion percentage was worse than Mr. Tommy Rees. And their defense, which is just so so good, did not perform better in any major statistical category than Notre Dame's defense. I like the 1-loss Irish going in and upsetting the Sooners.
Really, this boils down to tightening the screws in Brian Kelly's all-important third year. Even minor improvements in turnovers on both sides of the ball makes a world of difference for the Irish, especially in the red zone. With better depth and another year with this staff, I think this squad will beat expectations this season even with a tough schedule.
fishoutofwater says: (8-4)
I am confident that the Irish will play very well this season. 8-4 will be a good thing, and while the result matches the team's regular season record in 2011 with a one-game improvement over Kelly's first season at Notre Dame in 2010, 8-4 in 2012 will be the mark of an improved team taking a step in the right direction. Against the Irish in 2012 stands a brutal schedule; instability, inexperience, and youth at the quarterback position; and inexperience and lack of depth in a secondary facing a handful of Heisman contenders.
Not surprisingly, I think the Irish will drop games against two of the most highly-ranked teams they will face, both featuring potent passing offenses, in USC and Oklahoma. Losing spectacularly to Michigan in the final seconds for the last three years and dropping both high-pressure night games last season in the Big House and Notre Dame Stadium makes me doubt we'll take the win against the Wolverines (I hate saying this and half-believe the Irish will finally crush Hoke's maize-and-blue squad under Kelly). I expect the Irish to drop a game to either Stanford or Michigan State, though they may deliver instead an unexpected and heart-breaking loss to another team, as they tend to do (à la USF in 2011 and Tulsa in 2010). That leaves us with 4 losses and 8 hard-earned wins in what I expect to be a fighter's season for the Irish.
burger says: (8-4)
I think this team is poised to take a step forward in Kelly's third season, but I think they're still one year away from a BCS run, mostly due to the schedule and the quarterback situation.
The Irish have a relatively easy early slate and should cruise to 2-0, but will then most likely split the MSU and Michigan games. The Irish haven't beaten both Michigan teams in the same season since 2004 and have split those games five of the last seven years, so I have a hard time predicting they'll win both games. The other three losses I see are Stanford, Oklahoma, and USC. Stanford will take a step back from they're 11-win season last year, but I think they still have enough weapons to beat Notre Dame. Oklahoma and USC should both be national title contenders and the Irish just aren't at their level yet.
Outside of those games, I don't see a lot of tough games. Miami is a very bad team and has to travel to Chicago in October. I don't think BYU has the talent to match up with the Irish in the trenches and should get pushed around all day. And I don't see any reason ND should lose to the Pitt/BC/Wake trio in November. All three teams gave the Irish some problems last year, but the Pitt game is at home, BC no longer has Luke Kuechly, and Wake Forest lost almost their entire offense from last year.
An 8-4 season, while disappointing to some, should set up for a potential 10-win season in 2013 and a return to the BCS.
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.
The Mouth says: (8-4)
I love these Irish, but they have wounded me too many times lately.
Notre Dame may struggle with the midshipmen early on, given that we'll still be cutting the shrink-wrap off of our secondary and quarterback when we take the field in Ireland. I still think we come away with the win, simply because Navy just does not have the strength or athleticism to keep up. Purdue is Purdue, and jet lag or no, Purdue just Purdoesn't beat us at home. State is rebuilding, and I think that the Kelly-era strength and athleticism upgrades continue to reap benefits in the form of a road win at State. I've finally recovered from whatever whole-body physical illness overtook me in the '11 UTL game at Ann Arbor, but not enough to pick the Irish to beat U of M. Also, this is my attempt at a reverse jinx, or like the Tao of college-football fandom or something.
Miami ain't nothin' but a name, and the Irish roll in Chicagoland.... then abruptly get de-railed at home by Stanford, which is just at that Program level that we so desperately hope to attain in the near future. BYU will be badly outmatched, both at the skill positions and in the trenches, so no problem for the Irish here. Oklahoma, too, is at that Program level, and we just aren't there yet. Stranger things have happened, but the Irish are a year away and the Sooners aren't and have been there before.
The Irish win the ACC-whatever by schooling Pitt (I know they aren't in the ACC yet, but I was looking for an opportunity to work a parenthetical into this prediction), BC and Wake.
The Irish, sadly, are not yet ready for prime time and just can't knock off an experienced, battle-hardened Trojan squad. The Irish are just a year away in '12.
4pointshooter says: (9-3)
Let's get the easiest things out of the way - Oklahoma has a solid team and the best home field advantage in the country according to many outlets - they may be overrated by some and underrated by others but I'm gonna go ahead and say the consensus is that they are still a top 10 team and we're not going to beat them on the first try. Similarly, USC will likely field the most talented starting 22 in the country and the first quarterback taken of the 2013 NFL Draft under center, that game isn't going to be a win either. On the flip side these six have to be wins: Navy, Purdue, Miami, BYU, BC, Wake Forest and though not as easy as the previous six, I'm also going to favor ND over Pittsburgh at home.
This means we have 3 toss up games: Michigan State, Michigan and Stanford. I will fully argue that ND played a near elite Stanford team (featuring the best QB in the country) respectably without a quarterback (or at least one that can play at a top 50 FBS level) therefore given that Everett Golson would have started 5 games by that point, I'm going to give the edge to the Irish in that mid-October match up. Which means we're going to drop one of the two Michigan match-ups in September and I only pick us to actually win one of those because I expect our luck to turn just a little bit, but not enough that Denard Robinson won't look like the best player in the country in the last 5 minutes of the game on September 22, 2012, because he likely will. We're still talking about Notre Dame here.
A 9-3 average from the staff---how much are we a bunch of sunshine soaking, kool-aid drinking optimists?