There is an exercise I have to do every year when I am evaluating Notre Dame. I have to ignore the uniforms the players are going to wear and evaluate this team as if they played in Kalamazoo or Wichita or somewhere obscure. Because of the aura surrounding this team you have to do that or else you can get swept up in the inevitable hype and optimism surrounding perhaps the most national program we have. Certainly it's the only program with its own national TV deal. It's not the only program with myopic and overly optimistic fans, but it's one that seems to enter every season with the highest of hopes and expectations -and which always finds a way to fall just short of those expectations. Rarely bad - at least now that Charlie Weis is long gone - but rarely as good as some think they are going to be. So, is this year going to be different? Or are people just looking at this team through their golden glasses yet again?
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Key Additions and Departures
As you can probably tell from the introduction, I am eternally and naturally a skeptic when it comes to this team. In this case it is warranted. This is a team likely to start the season ranked in the Top 10, yet they return just eight starters. The losses aren't minor, either - they had seven players picked in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft, including superb offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley at No. 6 and receiver Will Fuller at No. 21. They are left with big holes in the offensive line, in all three levels on defense, and at running back. It's not that they have a shortage of talent by any means - they had a strong recruiting class again this year. It's just that with that many changes happening at once, and with that many key players departing at the same time, luck is a huge factor in the speed with which the team can get back on track. I don't like betting on luck.
The offense in particular is a bunch of questions packed into one unit. Can they fill the holes on offense? Will DeShone Kizer take a big step forward at QB, or will Malik Zaire recapture the job he lost to a broken ankle last year? Will the running game, a strength on paper, be able to shine behind the offensive line? Will they be able to replace Fuller adequately enough to make the passing game a legitimate threat? Like I said, too much luck required here to be hugely optimistic.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish Schedule Analysis
As Notre Dame schedules go, this could certainly be a whole lot worse. Games against Nevada, Duke, Syracuse, NC State, Army, Navy and Virginia Tech - all at home or at neutral sites except for the NC State game - should be wins if this team is at all what they are supposed to be. That's a comfortable base of seven wins to build on. They open at Texas, which isn't nearly as scary as it should be. They host Michigan State, and the Spartans seem to be a step or three back from their recent best. Stanford is another team they host which isn't quite at the peak of their game. Miami is probably at least a year away from true respectability. That leaves likely their toughest game for last - a trip to USC. It is USC, though, so we never really know if the wheels will still be on that bus by the end of the season. It's not hard at all given that schedule to imagine them winning 10 games, and more is not out of the question, either.
2016-17 Notre Dame Betting Odds and Trends
Bovada has them at +2000 to win the National Championship, which has them tied with Stanford as the ninth choice in the country. BetOnline has set the season win total at nine. Given our analysis of the schedule, it's not at all surprising that the "over" is solidly favored at -145.
You can always be sure that the Irish will draw more public action than they probably should. It's reasonably impressive, then, that they went 8-5 ATS during their 10-win season last year. They went over the total in seven of 13 games.
2016-17 Notre Dame Predictions and College Football Picks
In the three seasons since being humiliated in the national title game, Brian Kelly and company have averaged nine wins. I expect them to beat that average this year, yet I have no expectations for them to be true threats to make it back to the big game. Ten wins seems lie about the right number for them given the amount of turnover and the potential challenges in the schedule. I expect them to lose at USC and to lose again in a game that may or may not be pretty. Solid team, but no value at all in national title betting.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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