2018 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Season Win Total Picks and Predictions for NCAA Football
2017 Record: 10-3
2018 Las Vegas Season Win Total: 9.5
2018 Season Win Total Picks NCAA Football: 'Under'
Will the real Notre Dame please stand up.
Two years ago the Irish took every bad beat imaginable and bumbled their way to a 4-8 season. They responded in force last year, going 10-3 with their victories coming by an average of more than 22 points per game. Brian Kelly's squad has 15 returning starters and a load of experience. So, should we take this team seriously as a potential College Football Playoff participant or are they just an overblown, overrated side show?
The head coaching slot at Notre Dame is perpetually one of the hottest seats in the country. Kelly's blood boils at a pretty low temperature as is. So one of the keys to this season will be keeping him cool and focused.
Notre Dame's season may hinge on the continued development of quarterback Brandon Wimbush. An equal threat running and passing, Wimbush completed just 49.5 percent of his passes but did managed 30 combined touchdowns on the year. He's the team's leading returning rusher and really the key to the season.
The Irish have a very young, but talented, crop of running backs. But they have only one guy on the roster that caught more than 20 passes last season. Notre Dame doesn't throw a lot - they were just No. 102 in the country in passing offense - but they are still ruthlessly efficient on the attack. The Irish were No. 24 in scoring, No. 7 in rushing and No. 27 in total offense.
Beyond Wimbush, the key for the offense is the line. They are looking to start three sophomores up front. And only one player, center Sam Mustipher, is playing at his natural position.
Notre Dame's defense was better than its numbers suggested. They got blown up by Miami and Stanford. But this team held Georgia, Michigan State and USC to an average of 17.3 points per game. The Irish have nine starters back on that side of the ball and should field another Top 20 unit.
The Irish begin the season by hosting Michigan in one of the biggest games in the country. Notre Dame opens with three straight home games and a road game at Wake Forest before things start to pick up.
Games at Virginia Tech, versus Navy in San Diego, at Northwestern, against Syracuse in the Bronx and at USC give the Irish one of the most challenging road schedules in the nation. Notre Dame takes everyone's best shot every week. And when you factor in coast-to-coast travel, it's tough to be Irish.
Notre Dame is usually its own worst enemy. In their unending quest for money the Irish usually play one of the most difficult schedules in the country. But it seems like Kelly has learned his lesson a bit. This year's slate, in terms of opponents winning percentage from last year, is one of the easiest that I can remember Notre Dame facing. They have five big-time opponents in Michigan, Stanford, at Virginia Tech, Florida State and at USC. Three of those five come at home, where the Irish are 29-8 straight up over the last six seasons.
However, Notre Dame is one of the most public betting teams in all of sports. The sportsbooks know this, so they always juice the lines on the Irish. That's why they are just 62-66 against the spread over the course of the last decade. The only way to make money with teams like this is to bet against them. The Irish have a physically-taxing schedule that has them crisscrossing the country three times in their last five weeks. I think they will lose to at least two of the powerhouse teams that they take on, and I can see one upset.
This program hasn't posted back-to-back 10-win seasons since 1992-93. I have them missing out at that feat this year, finishing at 8-4 or 9-3. I definitely have them going 'under'.
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