2015 Record: 10-3
2016 Las Vegas Season Win Total: 9.0
2016 Season Win Total Prediction: 'Push'
Brian Kelly may be a bit of a maniac, but he is the best coach that Notre Dame has had in a quarter century, and Kelly continues to do a fantastic job at one of college football's flagship programs. The Irish have gone 39-13 over the past four seasons and enter this year in the Top 10. Kelly continues to stockpile talent in South Bend, and Notre Dame is in a great position for continued success.
However, I'm not nearly as high on the Irish this year as most people are. Notre Dame has only nine returning starters, and between DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire they have a bit of a quarterback controversy brewing. Kizer performed well while getting the lion's share of the snaps as a freshman last year. But Kelly hasn't announced a starter yet, and the longer the battle wages the bigger the impact it could have on team chemistry.
Kelly did an amazing job getting this to 10 wins - and in the thick of the college football playoff race - last year despite the fact that they were decimated by injuries. Most of last year's hurt starters are back, bolstering their depth and experience. But I also think last year's success came thanks to a relatively easy schedule.
The Irish have a challenging list of opponents this year, including games against Texas, Michigan State, Stanford, Miami, Virginia Tech and USC. But fortunately for the Irish, only two of those games are on the road. And with three other neutral-site games Notre Dame will play in an opponent's home stadium only three times.
This nontraditional schedule could end up being a distraction for a really young team. On top of that, Notre Dame has to deal with the fact that they are still a game that every opponent circles on the schedule. They take everyone's best shot, and even the seemingly "easier" looking games like Duke, Syracuse or Navy could turn into an upset quickly.
I'm going to play Notre Dame 'under'. They have half as many starters back this year as last, and with just seven senior starters - including just one on offense - I think that Notre Dame will struggle a bit this year and then potentially set themselves up well for next year. It will be very close, and nine wins is probably just right, but I think the value here on is on the Irish underachieving.
2015 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Schedule
DATE OPPONENT TIME (ET) Location
Sun, Sep 4th, 2016 at Texas 07:30 PM Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memoria
Sat, Sep 10th, 2016 Nevada 03:30 PM Notre Dame Stadium
Sat, Sep 17th, 2016 Michigan St. 07:30 PM Notre Dame Stadium
Sat, Sep 24th, 2016 Duke 03:30 PM Notre Dame Stadium
Sat, Oct 1st, 2016 at Syracuse 12:00 PM MetLife Stadium
Sat, Oct 8th, 2016 at NC State 12:00 PM Carter-Finley Stadium
Sat, Oct 15th, 2016 Stanford 07:30 PM Notre Dame Stadium
Sat, Oct 29th, 2016 Miami Florida 03:30 PM Notre Dame Stadium
Sat, Nov 5th, 2016 at Navy 11:30 AM EverBank Field
Sat, Nov 12th, 2016 Army 03:30 PM Alamodome
Sat, Nov 19th, 2016 Virginia Tech 03:30 PM Notre Dame Stadium
Sat, Nov 26th, 2016 at USC 03:00 PM Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
All Times EST
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