With the LSU Tigers defeat of the Clemson Tigers last night in the National Title game the 2019-2020 season is officially over. We can now fully turn our attention to the 2020-2021 season. Everyone is 0-0. Everyone has hope. Everyone has predictions. Here are my five WAY too early predictions for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in this coming season
Ian Book will be a Heisman Finalist
Disregard for the moment that Notre Dame doesn’t officially have an offensive coordinator. All signs seem to point to Tommy Rees as the lone coordinator or co-OC along with a hire like Joe Moorhead. Assuming either of these two things happen the Notre Dame offense will be better positioned than people think to have a great season. The offensive line will return all five starters to lead the way for returning running backs like Jafar Armstrong, C’Bo Flemister, Jahmir Smith, Kyren Williams, and incoming freshman dynamo Chris Tyree(more on him later). Despite the loss of Cole Kmet the Irish should be in good shape at tight end with Tommy Tremble, Brock Wright, and incoming freshman Michael Mayer. The loss of Chase Claypool will hurt, however we saw Braden Lenzy and Lawrence Keys take steps forward this season and Kevin Austin returns from season long suspension to fill the void left. Can any one player replace Claypool or even Chris Finke to a lesser extent? No. However, the Irish should be able to replace him in the aggregate. Book seemed to find a comfort zone over the last five games and I would expect that to continue in a big way into the 2020 season with the coaching changes the team is making. He has an opportunity to put up big numbers for Notre Dame next year and we all know that would play well nationally as Notre Dame will again be pushing for a playoff spot next year.
Chris Tyree will lead the team in rushing
Not since the late Greg Bryant arrived on campus in 2013 has there been a running back with such pedigree in the Notre Dame running back room. Notre Dame is desperate for a running back of Tyree’s talents and it’s my feeling that the Irish coaching staff will do anything and everything in their power to get him on the field immediately and give him as much a workload as he can handle. Notre Dame is “deep” at running back in the sense that they have some reliable bodies in the room, but none as talented as Tyree. I wouldn’t expect anything near the 1,000 yard mark for Tyree but with the way Notre Dame will split carries and manage workloads Tyree could lead the team in rushing with a very effective and dynamic 700 yards.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah will win the Butkus Award
It feels like a Brian Kelly lead team is due for a Butkus Award winner. Manti Te’o won in 2012, Jaylong Smith won in 2015, and it’s been quiet on that front since. Enter JOK. At 6’2 220lbs and built like a cyborg linebacker from the future, Owusu-Koramoah gives Notre Dame’s defense their best chance to win the award since Smith left campus. Owusu-Koramoah finished the year incredibly strong, can play any of the three linebacker positions and is a good enough athlete to even play the nickel. With a strong defensive line in front of him clearing the way and under the tutelage of Clark Lea expect big things from Owusu-Koramoah in his last season at Notre Dame(..a bit of a bonus prediction there)
Notre Dame will not make the College Football Playoffs
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news here but I don’t think Notre Dame climbs to the mountain top in 2020. The front half of the schedule, aside from a trip to Lambeau Field to face Wisconsin, doesn’t seem to have many pitfalls but the back half the schedule is littered with landmines. Some obvious, some not so obvious. Let’s get the obvious out of the way right now. The Clemson Tigers. Despite the loss last night Clemson will walk into South Bend with at the very least Trevor Lawerence throwing to Justyn Ross and possibly the returning Tee Higgins. Clemson is a machine right now and will be returning a ton of talent. This is obviously a dangerous late season game. If the Irish lose that, there is very little time to make up ground in the rankings. Prior that Clemson match-up is a home game against a tricky and well-coached Duke Blue Devils squad. The week after is a trip to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech. Does Notre Dame get caught looking ahead or get caught in a hangover game? The last two weeks of the season will be against an improved Louisville Cardinals program on Senior Day and then a trip out west to face the Trojans of USC. We can continue to laugh at USC’s recruiting woes, but they will have more than enough weapons to hurt a Notre Dame team that may be battling secondary issues all season. There’s just too many games that give me pause late in the year for Notre Dame to let me predict they make the playoffs. I think another 10-2 regular season is likely. Which leads me to my last prediction …
The New Year’s Six bowl win drought will end
Fear not. Not all is lost. Notre Dame will both make a New Year’s Six Bowl, but also win one for the first time since the 1994 Cotton Bowl. This past season the way the playoff bowls were set up and Notre Dame’s humiliating loss at Michigan restricted their access. Too many at-large bids were lost due to the Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl hosting semi-final matchups for Notre Dame to sneak in even had the Irish risen to around 10-12 in the rankings. That won’t be an issue next season as the Fiesta and Peach are now available again and I don’t think we’ll be seeing programs like Minnesota or Baylor at the top of the rankings either, which also played a part in restricting Notre Dame’s access. I have no idea what bowl it will be or who the opponent will be but I’m confident that this year the drought ends as the program feels like it’s ready to take that next step and set itself up for a playoff run in the coming seasons.
It’s officially the 2020 season Irish fans!
Go Irish. Beat Navy.