We are just getting started with the REAL offseason for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and because of that, we have some time to light our brains on fire as we throw scenario after scenario up on a whiteboard. It’s in that spirit that I offer these predictions (most likely there will be more in the weeks to come):
CHRIS FINKE WILL LEAD THE TEAM IN TD RECEPTIONS
The Irish have a very talented wide receiver group, but the guy that helps make them dangerous is Chris Finke from the slot. One of the best lines from the Notre Dame media this spring was, “this was the one day Chris Finke didn’t embarrass everyone.”
Finke is dangerous and has elite route-running skills. You normally wouldn’t list a slot receiver in this offense as the touchdown leader, but Finke is such a mismatch for linebackers and most safeties that it’s hard to see him NOT scoring a bunch this year.
NOTRE DAME WINS BY DOUBLE DIGITS IN ANN ARBOR
One of the biggest mysteries of the offseason is all of the love the Michigan Wolverines are receiving from the media. It’s as if they haven’t been paying attention to what has been happening during the Jim Harbaugh era. They can’t beat rivals and they have a terrible time beating top 25 teams.
Michigan was supposed to be incredible last year with a defense that was “one of the best” in the country. Notre Dame beat them without too much trouble and they did it without Ian Book or Dexter Williams. Well, Ian Book will be there — unlike most of the bigger playmakers from the 2018 Skunkbear defense.
And... it’s not like Julian Okwara, Khalid Kareem, or Daelin Hayes are going anywhere — and I think they like the taste of Shea Patterson’s blood.
THE IRISH WILL HAVE THE BEST SAFETY TANDEM IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Maybe that’s not all that bold of a statement after all. Last year, Notre Dame’s defense got some of the best safety play they’ve seen in quite some time in South Bend. Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott were a dynamic duo with a combined stat line of 162 tackles, 6 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles.
With that experience and the laurels of captaincy, I expect both Elliott and Gilman to have another great year — and even better. While the Irish will miss Drue Tranquill and Te’von Coney in 2019, this duo is capable of helping the young linebackers out as they come around.
The Irish were finally able to get great safety play in 2018 after quite a few years of — well it wasn’t very good. With one very productive year under their belts, a solid spring, and more preparation; Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott will absolutely shine in 2019.