Notre Dame Fighting Irish Odds to Win the 2015 College Football National Championship
by Alan Matthews - 8/12/2014
Might Notre Dame have returned to the BCS Championship Game last year if starting quarterback Everett Golson hadn't been expelled from school for academics? I would say no, but I do think the Irish might have reached a BCS bowl with Golson. As it was they finished 9-4 after playing for the national title in the 2012 season, Golson's first as a starter. He's back now, and expectations are sky high again in South Bend in Year 5 of Brian Kelly's reign. He has guided Notre Dame to four straight winning seasons for the first time since a 12-year win streak in South Bend ended in 1999.
The question is whether Notre Dame's independence will hurt or help its chances to make the four-team College Football Playoff. Certainly the Irish play as tough a schedule as anyone, including against national title favorites Florida State , but they won't get a boost from a conference championship game. Would a 10-2 record be enough to get into the national semifinals? No one really knows because no one is sure how this process will all work itself out. I will say this: Notre Dame will generally get the benefit of the doubt because it's still Notre Dame, even if not quite the national behemoth it used to be.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish Odds to Win the 2015 National Championship Story Lines
Technically, Golson is competing with redshirt freshman Malik Zaire for the starting QB job, but it would be a huge upset if Golson doesn't win the job after his performance in 2012. Golson led the Irish to 10 straight wins to open his career, the second-most in school history. He also became the first in Irish history to lead the team to road victories over Top-10 foes in his first two respective road starts (Michigan State and Oklahoma). Overall, he completed 58.8 percent of his passes (187 of 318) for 2,405 yards and 12 touchdowns with six interceptions. He also rushed for 298 yards and six scores. He was really the only guy who played fairly well in the BCS title game blowout to Alabama.
Six starters are due back on offense, which doesn't include Golson. Two of the team's leading rushers, Cam McDaniel (705 yards) and Tarean Folston (470 yards), return. No. 1 receiver T.J. Jones has moved on, but No. 2 DaVaris Daniels returned this summer after a spring suspension for academics. He caught 49 passes for 745 yards and seven touchdowns last year. The offensive line brings back three starters but lost excellent tackle Zach Martin, a 2014 first-round pick. Offensive coordinator Chuck Martin left for the Miami (Ohio) head coaching gig. Kelly will call the plays.
The Notre Dame defense was dominant in 2012, at least until facing Alabama. It was still pretty good last year, allowing 22.4 points per game and holding five of 13 opponents to 13 points or less. Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco left to take the UConn head coaching job. Kelly hired former Jets linebackers coach Brian VanGorder to replace him. The defensive front seven lost five starters, led by stud linemen Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt. The good news is that senior linebacker Jarrett Grace, who underwent two procedures on a broken knee suffered last October, appears as if he will be ready for the start of the season.
As usual, the Irish play one of the toughest schedules in the country, although at least Michigan State drops off. They open at home against Rice as 23.5-point favorites and -2300 on the moneyline. The total is 52.5. The line seems rather large as Rice was 10-4 last year and won the Conference USA Championship Game.
The Irish won't play a true road game until Oct. 18. In Week 2 they host Michigan, and 5Dimes already pegs Notre Dame at -5. The Wolverines won by 11 at home in 2013. Sadly, it's the last time those two rivals will play for a long while barring a bowl matchup. Then it's against a terrible Purdue team at Indianapolis, a week off before facing Syracuse at MetLife Stadium, and home to Stanford and North Carolina. The site has the Irish as underdogs only against the Cardinal (-3.5). Stanford won last year at home 27-20. UNC, meanwhile, is better than people think and the ACC Coastal favorite.
The first road game is a doozy: at Florida State. The Noles opened at -21. That's followed by what undoubtedly will be a needed week off before visiting Navy and Arizona State. The Irish beat Navy 38-34 in South Bend in 2013 and upset ASU 37-34 at a neutral site. Northwestern and Louisville close the Irish's home schedule, and the regular-season concludes at USC. The Irish beat the Trojans 14-10 a year ago to end a five-game home skid in the series.
Notre Dame 2015 National Championship Odds and Trends
Of course, no conference odds here, although the Irish do begin their annual mini-ACC schedule this season. At 5Dimes, the Irish are +7500 to win the National Championship, and they don't have odds to make the College Football Playoff yet (surprise considering the school's popularity). Notre Dame has "over/under" wins totals of 9.5 (under -1125 favorite), 9 (under -800 favorite), 8.5 (under -260 favorite), 8 (under -170 favorite) and 7.5 (over -125 favorite). Golson is +2500 to win the school's eighth Heisman Trophy.
Notre Dame Odds to Win the 2015 National Championship Picks & Predictions
There's a lot of talent on this roster as Kelly has recruited well. That defense looks a bit concerning, however, and it's never a great thing to lose both coordinators. The Irish would probably be the third-best team in the Big Ten (where they belong) or ACC (where they are in every sport but football). That's just not good enough, however, to make the four-team playoff. This is better than an 8-4 team, but that's where it will finish with that monster schedule. I project losses at FSU, ASU and USC and either to Stanford or North Carolina in South Bend but not both.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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