The Index believes the Irish are 22.3 points above the average team, which is bested only by the Clemson Tigers, Alabama Crimson Tide, Georgia Bulldogs and Ohio State Buckeyes. It’s also tied with the Washington Huskies.
Seth Walder of ESPN Analytics writes:
“Note that Notre Dame has a very real chance to break into the playoff for the first time, thanks to its No. 5 ranking in FPI. Why is the model so high on the Fighting Irish? Because of their defense. After ranking 10th in opponent-adjusted defensive efficiency last season, Notre Dame is returning 10 starters on that side of the ball. As a result, FPI predicts South Bend to host the nation’s third-best defense in 2018.”
The Irish have a 34 percent chance to finish the season with a Top 4 Strength of Record, which is a measurement of how strong a team’s record is given its schedule. A higher SOR means that the team’s wins were more difficult to achieve. It’s also become a reliable metric in determining the College Football Playoff participants: 15 of the 16 playoff teams entered the postseason with a top-four SOR, Walder noted.
The data analyst said the index can also decide which games will have the biggest playoff implications heading into the season.
Notre Dame is involved in two such matchups. The FPI believes it has a 68 percent chance to beat the Michigan Wolverines at Notre Dame Stadium in Week 1 and a 58 percent chance to defeat the USC Trojans in the regular season’s final week at the Los Angeles Colosseum.
Here are the rest of the predictions for Notre Dame’s opponents this year, according to FPI. Projected results are based on 10,000 simulations of the rest of the season.
- #11 Michigan: 8.6 wins and 3.5 losses, 9.4 percent chance of winning Big 10 conference
- #13 Stanford Cardinal: 8.4 wins and 3.8 losses, 10 percent chance of winning Pac 12 conference
- #15 USC: 8.7 wins and 4 losses, 25.4 percent chance of winning Pac 12
- #18 Florida State Seminoles: 7.3 wins and 4.8 losses, 4.5 percent chance of winning ACC
- #22 Virginia Tech Hokies: 8 wins and 4.2 losses, 4.1 percent chance of winning ACC
- #31 Northwestern Wildcats: 6.3 wins and 5.8 losses, 1.8 percent chance of winning Big 10
- #38 Wake Forest Demon Deacons: 6.4 wins and 5.6 losses, 0.5 percent chance of winning ACC
- #57 Pittsburgh Panthers: 4.5 wins and 7.5 losses, 0.2 percent chance of winning ACC
- #58 Syracuse Orange: 5.2 wins and 6.8 losses, no chance of winning ACC
- #76 Vanderbilt Commodores: 3.9 wins and 8.2 losses, no chance of winning SEC
- #78 Navy Midshipmen: 6.5 wins and 6.5 losses, 1.9 percent chance of winning AAC
- #124 Ball State Cardinals: 3.5 wins and 8.5 losses, no chance of winning MAC