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OFD Staff Revisits Notre Dame Football Predictions

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We're 7/12ths of the way through the season, and with the playoff push looming, we thought it would be an interesting time to go back and revisit the predictions we made coming in to the season.

Streeter Lecka

All the way back in August, the OFD staff broke out the crystal ball (not that one) to peer in to the future of ND football. After 7 games (and 2 bye weeks), we know a lot more about this Irish team.

Personally, I find it incredibly annoying when pundits and talking heads throw out wild and provocative predictions without ever taking accountability to go back and explain why they were so off, and why listening to them in the future is any more reliable than flipping a coin. To that end, I polled the OFD staff and asked them to revisit how they feel about their August predictions with the Irish sitting at 6-1*.

4pointshooter

11-1. The Irish come out strong starting 4-0 then play a few close games in October, including a tough loss to FSU on the road. The Irish regroup to finish strong and Everett Golson is invited to New York after the season ends. When all is said and done the Irish nab a #4 seed to the playoffs for rematch against Winston's Seminoles. This time, will the result be the same as two months ago?

I pretty much nailed it and I stick by it.

alstein

9-3. The schedule is really interesting. I have a hard time seeing a less than 4-0 record in September; if it's even 3-1, then 9-3 even feels like a stretch. They gotta get at least 1 in October, but that's no easy task. I have a bit of a feeling that FSU/Stanford this season are like USC/OU from 2012, just impossible to predict victory in the preseason, but things happen and I have a hard time seeing FSU replicate last season and, well, ND was able to beat Stanford at home last time around. In November, I really think there are three relatively easy victories (I really think Louisville is going to suck this year), but the Pac 12 games are tough. Ultimately, this season will be about how ND does against the Pac 12. I'll guess a loss to FSU, lose to 2 of 3 Pac 12 teams, and sweep the rest of them.

I'm not sure if I'm going for a reverse jinx or just not ready to accept good sports things yet, but I'm gonna hold firm with 9-3. The schedule has been garbage so far and we have to face, in my opinion, 3 reasonably tough to very good teams along with occasionally plucky Navy and Northwestern that could randomly knock off ND if they catch them at less-than-their-best. So, yea, I'm not exactly booking any plane tickets to Dallas for mid-January quite yet.

burger23

9-3, and I think that has to be the floor for this season.  Another 8-4 season give Kelly records of 7-5, 8-4, 12-0, 8-4, and 8-4 at Notre Dame.  Suddenly that 2012 season is looking more and more like a flash in the pan.  Yeah yeah, Tommy Rees and injuries, but we need to see results eventually.  Luckily, I think this team has the talent to provide those results.  I love the tools we have on offense and I think our defense can be good even if the depth isn't really there.

FSU scares me, Stanford isn't a great matchup, and Michigan is still the boogeyman.  Plus USC, ASU, Louisville, and North Carolina will all be tough.  But I think this team can be very good.  9-3 would be a solid outcome to the season, but 8-4 or worse would be a disappointment.

Man was I harrumphy this offseason. I was hoping for a 9-3, "step in the right direction" type of season but this team has been a lot better than I imagined. The defense has been stellar and the offense is actually scoring points. 9-3 is still on the table but a 3-3 finish after a 6-0 start would be very disappointing. This team probably still has one more loss in it - Louisville and Arizona State are the likely candidates in my opinion - but I'll move my prediction to 10-2, with 11-1 being more likely than 9-3.

CW

10-2. I think people are severely underestimating what a quarterback duo like Golson and Zaire can do a team that has talent everywhere else. Those second and sevens that break down become easy little eight-yard scampers and a first down. Rees won a lot of big games during his ND career, but he was limited in so many ways. Golson isn't limited, and he has an offense around him that has juggernaut potential. The defense has some holes and is thinner than you'd like at the line, but if the offense is rolling, they might just need to break serve a couple times, and they have a few guys who seem capable of blowing up an opposing offense (Russell, Smith, Day, Redfield, Ishaq). The schedule is brutal so I think this team will be better than its record, which is okay when you consider that most of this squad will be back in 2015.

I'm going to stick with 10-2, although I didn't think my preseason prediction would leave me feeling disappointed at the end of the season. Arizona State is talented, Louisvile is good, Navy is always annoying and then you have Northwestern and USC, two teams that had preseason expectations and will now be looking to knock off the Irish to make their seasons worthwhile (felt great to write that). I hope I'm wrong and I will be crushed when loss number two occurs, but getting into one of the big bowls and priming a 2015 (and 2016) (and 2017...) run will make this season a success in many ways.

Eric Murtaugh

I've been stuck on 8-4 all summer. The schedule looks like a killer. And not like a typical Notre Dame "well it's another tough road ahead" schedule. More like one of the toughest in 30 years. We can always fall back on the position that some teams won't pan out as predicted, which is usually true. But this 2014 schedule would need about 4 or 5 teams (USC, North Carolina, Louisville, Michigan, maybe Navy) not to live up to expectations for this schedule to gain some breathing room and then fall back to just difficult instead of crazy difficult. And oh by the way, there are still 3 other games against pre-season ranked teams in Florida State, Stanford, Arizona State. I look back at last year and am pleasantly surprised the Irish went 3-1 during a 4-game stretch against Michigan State, Oklahoma, Arizona State and USC. Yet, the team still ended up with 4 losses at the end of the year. Schedules like this are just a brutal grind for a team that has a lot of question marks on defense and it doesn't leave me very optimistic.

All that said, the offense should finally come together this season. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 36 points per game is attainable, but again, with this schedule something like 33 points per game is going to be really, really good and I think that's more realistic. A more comfortable, mature, and experienced Golson should be able to do some fantastic things for this offense. He also has enough weapons and speed at the playmaking positions to put a hurt on many defenses.

Defensively, I think there will be some challenges. Right now, my guess is that the Redfield-Collinsworth safety duo will have us pulling our hair out. The corners look very good and should have a nice season. As a whole, the front seven should be solid but we can't afford more than a couple injuries plus Jaylon Smith really has to take over some games this fall. Add it all up and this could be a very average defense against our schedule.

I look at the wildly talented 1991 team and even that squad lost 3 out of the 5 games they played against ranked teams. That team ended on a high note with a Sugar Bowl victory over Florida, and while I don't think Notre Dame can lose that many games and still face a premier team in exhibition season, my feeling is that a same sort of season is the ceiling for the 2014 Fighting Irish. That is, a pretty mediocre season for the standards of the era that in retrospect won't look as terrible as it will feel in the moment.

With my record prediction some might think I'm saying we're not very good. Au contraire! I think this will be a very fine football team. If we were playing Michigan's schedule 11-1 would definitely be in play. But we're not. We're playing 8 teams in the pre-season Top 45. I think the season could be judged as somewhat successful if the Irish can go 3-2 against the 5 pre-season ranked teams (FSU, Stanford, USC, ASU, UNC) and beat Michigan.We went a game over .500 last year against ranked teams so it's possible to do it again in 2014. But can we really take down Michigan? Will we not trip up against someone like Syracuse, Northwestern, or Navy?

It will be a tough pill to swallow. We should finally see an offense that will look productive and sexy instead of being undervalued in perception through advanced stats. I just don't trust this defense with a new defensive coordinator against this schedule. They're just kids and we're asking a lot of them to go out in 2014 and be a playoff contender. With a defense that is going to feature starters without much career production like Okwara, Ishaq, Jones, Schmidt, Turner, Luke, and Redfield I just don't see any scenario where 10+ wins during the regular season is realistic. So many things would have to fall in place, so many players would have to considerably up their game, and most of the roster would have to stay healthy and I just don't see it happening.

The fan in me wants to say 9-3 but like I said I haven't been able to shake 8-4 out of my brain for months. I'm not sure how it will happen but we better hold on tight if we lose to Michigan again.

8-4 doesn't look likely now. The defense has been enormously surprising for most of the season. The really weak schedule so far has me worried about the second half of the season but the FSU game eased many of those fears. Increased expectations will be tough to handle for a young team now. Hopefully this article isn't a major jinx. Let's finish 10-2 or better.

Jamie Uyeyama

9-3. There are too many "ifs" for me to say 11-1 or 10-2. The defensive line is not only thin, but unproven. Notre Dame was able to get away with a similar type of circumstance at cornerback in 2012, but I just can't see that happening again at defensive line.

Unless the defense produces a lot of turnovers and gets to the quarterback more often than expected, I think the offense is going to have to outscore a lot of teams on the schedule. Games at Arizona State, at USC, and at Florida State are going to be extremely tough to win. The home schedule is no picnic either. My heart says 11-1, but my head says 9-3.

I was really worried about the defense and the depth along the defensive line in the pre-season. I'm still worried about depth, but the performance of the defense has certainly exceeded expectations.

I'm so impressed with the emergence of players like Will Fuller at receiver and Elijah Shumate at safety. I could have plugged in several different names there because there have been so many players who have stepped up and produced with minimal experience.

Brian Kelly and the staff have done an amazing job this season and I think this team is going to keep improving. My head said 9-3 before the season and my heart said 11-1. Now my head says 11-1 too. I think the Irish will win out and have a very good shot at being in the first ever college football playoff.

Jim Miesle

10-2. The schedule is brutal, but sets up pretty well for the Irish.  If they can make it through September unscathed, they have an outside shot at being in the conversation for the inaugural playoff.  This team is inexperienced but very talented--a recipe for some exciting games and close finishes.  Realistically, 9 wins should be considered the floor in Year 5 of the Kelly regime--does the program take the next step toward perennial contender?  I think so.

I am sticking with the original prediction here. The offense is pretty much on schedule with my expectations (minus the turn-over problem) and the defense is ahead of schedule. November's schedule is grueling, as it includes three road games (two of which are to Arizona and California) in addition to a formidable Louisville team at home. I think the Irish can make it through this unscathed, but more than likely they drop a close game in there somewhere. It will feel a little disappointing, but I think nearly every fan would have signed up for a 10-2 record in August.

JoeSchu

9-3. This is exponentially more difficult than last year because it might be the most "bipolar" set of expectations I've experienced.  On the one hand, I think 11-1 is a distinct possibility.  These guys are good.  There's talent on both sides of the ball, and I think this offense could put up video-game numbers throughout the year.  Defensively, Day, Smith, Russell, and Redfield could all become breakout stars.  However, the defensive line is paper-thin, and we don't have a QB who's taken a college snap in the last 12 months.  Oy vey, that schedule!  ESPN have the Irish favored in 6 of its 12 games, meaning 6-6 is in play.  The truth must lie somewhere in the middle.  I think the Irish go .500 against the top half of the schedule and handle their business versus the lower half.  A 9-3 season leaves ND outside the playoff picture, but sill represents a good base for this young squad to build on.

I called expectations for this year bipolar because the optimist in me wouldn't let the 6-6 possibility ESPN threw out there sink all the way in. What I've learned (repeatedly) is to not listen to ESPN. At 6-1, the Irish have more than held serve against a schedule that had a few surprises of its own. How many people foresaw the tire fire in Ann Arbor or UNC deciding defense was strictly optional? If you rate UNC as tougher than Northwestern, then of the toughest 6 games on our schedule, we've played 3, and gone 2-1* against that portion. I don't see us going 1-2 in the USC, ASU, Louisville stretch, and I like our chances vs. Navy and Northwestern. The Louisville game feels like that annual crazy game where someone goes off for the game of their life in Notre Dame Stadium. I've got us down for a heartbreaking 10-2, leaving us outside the playoffs but salivating to kick off 2015.

manor98

11-1.  And I had to talk myself down to get there... The obvious loss is to FSU. I could buy 10-2 with a surprise other loss, but if that happens I don't think it'll be Michigan, Stanford, or USC. That's the Cliff Notes - for the TL:DR, read on...

Rice - W: Nice aperitif.

Michigan - W: Time to shift the Team Hoke Tailspin from "subtle" to "Goose is dead." Gardner obviously used the last of his NZT-48 stash for the ND game last year. The entire team got significantly worse as the year went on in 2013, losing 6 of their last 8; the two wins were against Indiana, to whom they allowed 47 points, and a 3 OT affair against Northwestern. They lost the only two offensive linemen they had that were above average, their top running back in Toussaint, their top receiver in Gallon, and they inexplicably moved their best pass rusher, Jake Ryan, to MLB. As for Nussmeier vs. Borges, Saban thinks he upgraded by hiring Lane Kiffin. Let that sink in. And Bama fans are not crying to see Nussmeier go, either. I will be stunned if this is less than a double-digit win.

Purdue - W: Probably going to be one of the worst teams in the country. Hazell is on the hot seat to start his second year. Enough said.

Syracuse - W: I love Syracuse. They're my second favorite school. I almost went there. I can tell you almost as much about Ernie Davis, Jim Brown, and Art Monk as I can about George Gipp, Angelo Bertelli, and Joe Montana. This one still won't be close.

Stanford - W: Now we're getting interesting. I expect a tough game, but I'm not quaking in my boots over these guys. Yes, the offensive line is talented, but very green and, according to early reports out of practice, not jelling yet. They lost three starting OL to the NFL, which is an awful lot to replace. The least experienced guy is the new center. Hogan is what he is at this point - Tommy Rees with better wheels. Meh. Losing Tyler Gaffney will be a major blow to that offense. On the other side, Skov, Murphy, Gardner, Mauro, and Reynolds are an awful lot of talent, experience, and leadership to replace. I can't see how the defense won't take a step back. Last year, on the road, with I think 53 players dressed, no Big Lou, and Tommy No! at QB, twice we had the ball in the last seven minutes with a chance to tie. Yes, I expect a hard-fought game, but I also expect an Irish win. Time to restore order.

UNC - W: I would be concerned about trap game potential if this just fell after Stanford or before FSU. Being sandwiched between them, yeah, it's a worry. I almost think we're talking ourselves into fearing them, though, much like many otherwise reasonable people thought ASU would blow us out last year. I think the program is at a point where, in games like this, we'll take care of business.

FSU - L: Sigh. I really wanted to call this one a win, but I know that's the starry-eyed optimist in me. I think we'll be competitive and we'll surprise some people, but ultimately FSU is just too strong. For now.

Navy - W: With Golson, I think we'll be able to jump out to that early two-score lead that will make this game much easier.

ASU - W: They lost a TON on defense. I believe actually a four-letter word poop ton, in fact. (It's a family site.) And Marion Grice on offense - and probably other people, but Grice was the engine. I think we'll handle them easily.

Northwestern - W: I just want to see Fitzgerald cry. Please.

Louisville - W: I originally thought we would hammer the Bridgewater-less Cardinals, but I'll admit to a nervous gulp when I heard they had rehired Petrino. Especially with the game falling late in the season, I'm concerned about how well he might have that offense humming when we play them. On the other hand, they really haven't been that good - they've played one of the worst schedules of any top 25 team the last few years. I don't think Strong ever beat a ranked team there (or maybe a team that finished ranked). Much like UNC, I think we may be talking ourselves into a little too much fear here and that we'll take care of business.

USC - W: They should be down to, what, about 40 guys by then? Agholor scares the crap out of me. Everyone else, not so much. Even before the injuries they looked potentially weak in the trenches, and there's no reason to believe that's different now. I don't think Sark is really any different from Kiffin, either. They're USC so they'll always have talent, but again I'd be surprised if, all things considered, this is less than a double-digit win.

Well, it looks like my "blind squirrel" preseason prediction methodology has finally worked out... I had us at 11-1 with a closer-than-people-expected loss to FSU, and after what I've seen from this team I'm not willing to change that. I think we match up well with everyone down the stretch, and I expect to win each game. I think the way the FSU game ended was a "Come to Jesus" moment for this group, and they're going to come out of it laser-focused and ticked off every Saturday. You want to tell us we don't belong? Fine, we'll stomp everything in our way and won't let you leave us out.

I do think we're going to make the playoff - by virtue of our own performance and the corpses of other teams, there's no way an 11-1 ND would be left out - but I'm going to chicken out on postseason predictions because it's too hard to say without knowing the matchups. I think we'd have an even chance against anybody, though. Should be a very interesting close to 2014.

ndmspaint

9-3. The schedule scares the hell out of me.

The Irish are on pace to exceed my expectations which is a shrewd by-design preseason move on my part. While the schedule doesn't seem quite as formidable as it did before the season started, we have to keep in mind that we are doing no favors to our strength of schedule by destroying a team's will to play the game anymore. We have to accept that and keep pressing onward. Hopefully we come out inspired down the stretch or else 9-3 is still a possibility even as disappointing as it might sound to us now. While we're a play away from being 7-0, we're also not too far removed from being 4-3 already, so it's hard to ask for anything more than still being in the playoff picture at this point. I will predict 10-2 to leave some headroom to be "pleasantly surprised."

Paul Rigney

8-4 because everyone will flip out over it.

All jokes aside, I just don't see us beating Stanford, Wristbands McGee and #AskJameis. I think we'll beat USC but we'll lose to someone stupid like Pitt again for the 4th loss.

However, the circumstances of our losing will be different from last year. I look at it like Holtz's first and second years. The team will look legitimately better from week to week but we'll go through some growing pains at key positions.

Face it: this is the second year that Kelly will have what he wants at skill positions. 2010 and 2011 were dumpster fires at the quarterback position and 2013 was effectively a lost season due to Golson's departure (lol no we were not going to win 10 games with Tommy at QB). This season we'll have Golson back and strength across the offense, but Golson has to prove himself all over again (and keep his head screwed on). Defensively, I don't know what to think because BVG could be amazing or he could be Jon Tenuta Part Deux. We just won't know until Michigan probably.

So I'm going with 8-4. Ideal scenario would have us go 10-2 or 11-1 but I'm assuming the worst.

Revised prediction: 10-2

Reason: Turns out, Stanford is not who we thought they were (unless you're Punter Bro who insisted in our conversations, "Dude, Stanford sucks. You idiot.") but I have to say that this team has exceeded my expectations otherwise. I am still tacking on one more loss because I'm waiting for 2013 Pitt to happen but hope that it doesn't. That said, I think we'll get past USC so if the Irish can beat the fluffy teams we have on the November slate, we'll definitely be in the playoff discussion.

Oh, and Golson should still be a Heisman finalist. The current slate of candidates are no better than him in my opinion.

pburns2010

9-3 with the caveat that I have no idea what the defense is going to be like this season. That could bump this number up to 11-1.

I don't think we beat Stanford or FSU, and we most likely drop one of ASU or USC on the road. If our defense comes out and surprises me (especially stopping the run), I think the ASU/USC games are both wins, and we have a much better shot of taking Stanford down. FSU is still FSU.

I really think the true "everything went horribly wrong and this is the worst season possible" record is 7-5. Given our schedule, that is damn impressive if everything really went wrong. I think a 7-5 season puts CBK on the warm seat, and certainly explodes ND Nation, but it doesn't preclude us from going 12-0 in 2015. It ALL hinges on the defense in my opinion - and that is what I will be watching most closely throughout the opening weeks.

pburns2010 added a side note later to burger23's predition stating: " Another 8-4 season give Kelly records of 7-5, 8-4, 12-0, 8-4, and 8-4 at Notre Dame.  Suddenly that 2012 season is looking more and more like a flash in the pan."

If you told me the day we fired Weis that we would be 43-17 in the five years after he left, I would have taken that in a heartbeat. Stabilizing the smoldering crater that was ND football after Daviweisingham is an impressive job. That being said, I do think he needs to take a step up to a team that is consistently getting 10 wins each season (if that's possible with our scheduling) and in the conversation for the playoff each season. That step needs to happen this year or next, otherwise we may need to try and upgrade to a bigger coach who can push us over the edge (if that is even the problem).

Turns out the defense is pretty good. The schedule has been kinder than I expected, but honestly we're only one win off of where I thought we would be. 11-1 is certainly in play, as we should be favored in every game down the stretch (minus perhaps ASU on the road). If I was being statistically accurate at how I feel, I would say I'm predicting 10.7-1.3. This team has shown it is for real, though, and CBK's record late in the year makes me think 11-1 is where this team will end up. Plenty of chance to make it into the playoffs when all is said and done. Just like 2012, it's ahead of schedule, but this time we have more experience at the position that makes it all go.

PunterBro

14-0. I am a blind homer and fully expect us to win every game.

I am a blind homer and picked us to win every game. We lost to FSU, so I was wrong. However, I am still a blind homer and expect us to win ever game from here on out, including making it into the playoffs, winning every game in the playoffs, and winning the national championship. Glory.