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Five BIG questions for Notre Dame’s 2019 football season

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Because there are also a bunch of other questions.

Chase Claypool & Khalid Kareem Notre Dame football
Chase Claypool & Khalid Kareem
Mike Miller/One Foot Down

We are rapidly approaching the start of the 2019 college football season which will finally end the many months of speculation we have all put so much time into when discussing the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Who is the most important player on offense?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 29 CFP Semifinal at the Cotton Bowl Classic - Clemson v Notre Dame

The Irish have already suffered a few losses on offense during training camp with Michael Young and Cole Kmet both suffering a broken collarbone. Those injuries can force a person to think about other losses, and it is there where we find the most important player on this offense... Ian Book.

BREAKING NEWS: Quarterback is the most important player on offense.

Notre Dame still does not have the offensive line quality that it had in 2017, and the Irish are lacking the explosive running backs they had like Josh Adams and Dexter Williams. While the running game will still be very important in 2019, it will be the passing game that will carry the offense and this team. Ian Book’s accuracy will make this an efficient offense, and if he improves with the deep throw — he can make this an explosive offense as well.

Who is the most important player on defense?

An obvious choice here would be defensive end Julian Okwara — and no one could really argue against it. Okwara is an animal on the edge and all accounts have him much improved from last year, and could seriously become the single season sack leader for the Irish.

I will, however, offer a different take on the situation and the meaning of the word, “important.” Notre Dame has a massive overhaul of its linebacking corps, and the lone returning starter is Asmar Bilal. With Te’von Coney and Drue Tranquill now in the NFL, Bilal’s importance is quite understated.

If Asmar Bilal can find a solid home at either the MIKE or the BUCK after moving from ROVER where Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah now resides; it gives the Irish defense options, steadiness, and leadership at a position group that is the biggest question mark of the season. Asmar can, in many ways, make this a really good defense.

What is the biggest change from 2018 to 2019?

Every season offers change — after all this is college football. While it’s easy to look at the position groups, or coaches, it’s the schedule that offers up the biggest change from last year to now.

Last year there was a whole lot of noise made about the travel mileage the Irish were logging. The last half of the season saw the Irish head to San Diego, New York City, and Los Angeles. It was a brutal stretch that they barely survived as we saw in the season finale against the USC Trojans.

There are far less miles in 2019, but the road is even more treacherous with trips to play the Georgia Bulldogs, Michigan Wolverines, and Stanford Cardinal. The good news for Notre Dame is that there are no back-to-back away games this year. How the Irish play in those three games, will determine how good of a season this will be.

What is the most important game for Notre Dame in 2019?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 09 Georgia at Notre Dame Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This one is too obvious to ignore, and that’s the trip to Athens to take on Georgia. It will be the third game of the season for the Irish, and it’s the one every fan has circled bigger than any other on the schedule.

The Irish continue to be berated nationally for “not being able to play with the big boys,” even if it’s mostly a bunch of crap. All we need do is look back at the last time Notre Dame and Georgia played, and a 20-19 loss by the Irish to a National Championship game contestant is pretty admirable.

The Irish are still trailing Georgia, the Clemson Tigers, and the Alabama Crimson Tide in talent — but a win here sets the Irish up for a lot of possibilities this season, and lessens a lot of the noise outside of the program.

What will Notre Dame’s record be in 2019?

11-1

The schedule does set up quite nicely despite seven of Notre Dame’s opponents having a bye week before their game. I think Notre Dame plays a close game in Athens and just loses to a very good Georgia team (anywhere between 1 and 8 points).

And that’s it.

Michigan is probably the most overrated team in the country, and despite the Irish not having much success in Ann Arbor the last 4 times they played there, it’s not like the Big House is an intimidating atmosphere. Notre Dame is more talented than Michigan and has a better coaching staff — the Irish should be expected to win this game.

Stanford seems like it’s on a bit of a decline, and is lacking a lot of the pop it has had in the past. The rest of the schedule is filled with winnable games, and the Irish just have to go out there and do it.

At 11-1 (in this scenario) the Irish can definitely make the playoffs for the second year in a row, but a New Year’s Six game with a win would still be a great season and further proof that Notre Dame is heading back to “elite status.”

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