The Notre Dame Fighting Irish may no longer be in a major conference-they left the Big East and went independent two seasons ago-but the program loaded their 2015 schedule with marquee matchups against the ACC's and Pac-12's elite schools in order to stay relevant and make a national title push come late November. The Fighting Irish started off 2014 with a 7-1 record and were in contention for a playoff spot but lost four of their last five games of the year to finish with a disappointing 8-5 mark.
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Injuries and lack of experience derailed Notre Dame last season, but Coach Brian Kelly believes 2015 could be a breakout year for the program. The offseason prognosis by most college football experts seems to be that Notre Dame has the deepest and most talented roster the program has seen during Kelly's six seasons with the team. Let's take a closer look at Notre Dame's 2016 national title odds with predictions and analysis. All odds come from Bovada.
Notre Dame 2015 Schedule
Sept 5: Texas Longhorns
Sept 12: @ Virginia Cavaliers
Sept 19: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Sept 26: UMass Minutemen
Oct 3: @ Clemson Tigers
Oct 10: Navy Midshipmen
Oct 17: USC Trojans
Oct 31: @ Temple Owls
Nov 7: @ Pittsburgh Panthers
Nov 14: Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Nov 21: Boston College Eagles
Nov 28: @ Stanford Cardinals
Playing outside of a power conference could hurt Notre Dame, particularly because the playoff committee has already shown that it prefers conference championship games-which ended up being one of the biggest reasons why both Baylor and TCU, co-Big 12 champions, were skipped over last season. However, the Fighting Irish have set up their schedule in such a way that a one- or two-loss record keeps them in contention, and an undefeated season almost certainly earns them a Top 4 spot.
The squad's schedule is filled with tough matchups nearly every week and provides Notre Dame with plenty of opportunities to impress the playoff committee. The difficulty, of course, will be actually beating an ACC-heavy schedule while also managing to secure victories over USC and Stanford (on the road)-both being national title contenders.
Notre Dame 2016 National Title Odds and Trends
Title Odds: +1800
Notre Dame is currently receiving the six-best National Championship odds, according to Bovada, but the team is sitting firmly in the second rung of elite contenders with the TCU, USC, Baylor and a few other schools. At the moment, Ohio State, Alabama and Auburn are considered the front-runners and heavy favorites.
The Fighting Irish made a national title game appearance in 2013 and do have a championship pedigree, which makes +1800 an enticing bet. In 2014 Notre Dame had a talented, yet inconsistent, defense, which turned into a liability for the team. In 2015, the defense could be Notre Dame's biggest asset as many of the players will be returning with an added year of experience. Defensive tackle Sheldon Day and linebackers Jaylon Smith and Joe Schmidt are expected to be the anchors on defense
Notre Dame 2016 College Football National Championship Picks and Predictions
Notre Dame will enter the 2015 season with quite a bit of pressure to succeed, and another disappointing collapse might not end well for Kelly. The team does have talent, a promising young quarterback in Malik Zaire, and an offense with skill players at nearly every position. The difficulty for Notre Dame will be convincing the playoff committee that it deserves a postseason spot in the first place. Not playing in a major conference leaves the team in the position of almost having to go undefeated to secure a spot.
Yes, the Fighting Irish face a daunting schedule, and a one-loss mark will put the squad in contention. However, would that be enough to leapfrog a one-loss SEC, ACC, Big Ten or Pac-12 team? Realistically, not playing in a major conference hurts Notre Dame, and expecting an undefeated season is too much to ask of a good, but not great, team. There seems to be too much risk wagering on Notre Dame at +1800.
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Read more articles by George Monroy
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