NCAA: Notre Dame Fighting Irish +3500, Odds to win the Championship
Last season proved to be a great bounce back year for the Fighting Irish, as they ended the season with double-digit wins and a stirring bowl game victory. This was a team that was very much in the playoff picture in the final weeks of the season, which was all the more impressive when you consider that they lost at home to the Georgia Bulldogs in the early part of the season. Despite those 10 wins, this may not be a smooth transition into a new season, especially when you consider how many players the offense lost to the NFL. Brian Keely has a bit of a job on his hands here, although he does have a lot of very good parts still in place on this team. Let’s take a closer look at the 2018 version of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) August 14, 2018
Notre Dame were especially effective running the ball last season, finishing 7th in the nation in average YPG gained on the ground. They have lost some key elements in that department, though, which we will talk about in a moment. With the running game likely to take a dip, more work is going to land on the shoulders of QB Brandon Wimbush. The young man was tough to figure out last season, as accuracy proved to be an issue quite often. That said, he was lethal inside the red zone, hitting a 76% TD rate, which is stunningly good. If he can get his accuracy issues sorted, he could be a real threat.
The Notre Dame running game will not feature Josh Adams this season, as he and his 1,430 yards from last season are off to the NFL. Further compounding the issue is the fact that they have also lost a pair of starting linemen who were partly responsible for blasting those holes open for Adams to run into. The Irish do have options at RB, but both of their top guys have had injury issues that limited their time on the field in 2017. Dexter Williams needs to step up and take the reins in hopes of at least getting some of those yards lost with the departure of Adams.
The Fighting Irish defense took a huge step forward in 2017 under Steve Elko, but he is off to Texas A&M this season, leaving Clark Lea in charge of a very solid defensive unit. Lea was the linebackers coach last season, so he should have no real problem stepping in and picking up where Elko left off. What is sure to help is that Notre Dame will have 9 defensive starters returning to the fold, although none at the safety position, which could be an issue. Alohi Gilman transferred in from Navy to help in that area, so look for him to make an impact this season.
You need to go all the way back to 1993 to find the last time that Notre Dame delivered back to back double-digit win seasons. Yes, they had two 10-win seasons in the past 3 years, but the 4-8 season in 2016 is one that still sticks out like a sore thumb. This team has the talent to win 10 again this season, but I’m not sure they have enough to be playoff bound.