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Notre Dame Football Expectations (From Someone Who Actually Knows)

First things first, if you choose to write about Notre Dame football then you better know that what you’re writing is true. There are too many “college football” writers nowadays that write about anyone with a big following so that they can get clicks. Notre Dame might fall into the “writing for clicks” category more than any team I have ever seen. I’ve read just about every single article talking about Notre Dame football in the last few months, and it is effortless to tell who’s full of shit and who’s not by the end of the article. One writer stated, “they lose a lot on defense, but return their nucleus.” One starter, meaning someone who started the whole season, graduated. Yes, they did lose a few players who played a lot of snaps, but this is The University of Notre Dame I am very confident they can find players to play snaps so guys can catch a breather. I’m going to, give a massive shoutout to Pete Sampson, a Notre Dame writer for The Athletic. He is one of the only people who write articles/pieces that you can tell he follows the program he isn’t just writing for clicks. Now my rant is over time to dive into this season.

Expectations

If you’re a Notre Dame fan, you should never want anything less than playing in the playoffs every year. I understand that we aren’t Alabama or Clemson, but there is no reason we can’t have the same success as Ohio St/FSU type of programs. So my expectations going into the season is always to have one of the four playoff spots. Goes without saying, we can at MAX only lose one game before the playoffs. If there is a team I’ve ever had confidence in, it’s this one. This 2018-19 schedule may do us a lot of favors. This schedule will most likely this finish high on the strength of schedule rankings because of nostalgia, and I can admit that. Some of the teams on this schedule I don’t think will be as good as it seems (USC, Stanford, FSU). As of now, it sounds like USC’s three best players are all TRUE freshmen. I want to see three freshmen take the entire workload for a whole season. Am I worried about USC still? Yes, it’s in November. Stanford being in the middle of the season scares me less than being in November, but wild take I think Notre Dame blows the breaks off of Stanford. The Cardinals front seven is going to struggle, and if they do, Notre Dame will be able to do anything they want offensively. The Florida State community is jumping the gun on how good they’re going to be. Willie Taggart has yet to prove ANYTHING as a coach. Let me remind you, his coaching record is 47-50. Most of those games were in either The Sun Belt Conference or The American Athletic Conference. If you’re a good coach, then you find a way to win in those conferences. Florida State should consider it a win that the fans didn’t burn down the stadium after this hire. Coming to South Bend with Wille Taggart, I am not worried. Don’t worry; I didn’t forget about the Michigan game.

ND VS Michigan.

I’m glad that this is the first game of the season (most of that was a lie). Anytime you open your season against actual talent there are plenty of positives and negatives that come with it. Positives: you immediately know if you’re for real or not. Negatives: you immediately learn that you’re not for real and you just waited eight months for this game. For Notre Dame, we are going to learn the positives (Let’s hope). The most significant focus of this game is the quarterback position. Shea Patterson VS Brandon Wimbush. I’m going to have to slow Michigan fans down here; Shea Patterson is not the savior to Michigan football. Shea Patterson is a quarterback who was not good enough to play in the SEC. “But Derrik, he had 2259 yards in 7 games.” Shut up. 40% of his yards for the total season came against powerhouses South Alabama and UT Martin. Shea Patterson has thrown more interceptions than games he’s played. He played in an Air Raid offense; he was going to get stats. Explain to me why he only had 281 total passing yards in two games against Alabama and LSU, if he’s so talented? (Side note: zero touchdowns and five picks in those two games, Ian Book against LSU 164 yards, two touchdowns, and a single interception. OH, A WIN TOO.) I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Brandon Wimbush is as efficient as Shea Patterson, oh wait, yes I am. Wimbush played in 9 wins LAST year. Shea Patterson posts a solid 4-6 overall record in his career. Ole Miss had more offensive talent than Michigan, and he posted a 4-6 record. Michigan does have a better defense than Ole Miss could even dream but if there is still no talent on offense, then it’s going to be tough to score. I’m not going to mention Harbaugh being 1-4 in rivalry games (well shit, I guess I said it.) I like Jim Harbaugh, but he has yet to win big games, that should give Notre Dame fans hope. I’m done with my Michigan bashing. Michigan is good at defense, and I have no way of making that look bad (well there terrible schedule, but I’m not going to do that.) I don’t expect this game to get into the 30’s. Michigan always has talent in the front seven and Wimbush running the football might be Notre Dame’s best offense at times this year, especially early when they’re trying to find an offensive identity. Michigan does have smaller DB’s against a possible Notre Dame formation with four players who are 6’4 and athletic running routes which could end badly for Michigan. Michigan is a good football team, which I know is hard for you to believe after all that bashing. Michigan has to cause multiple turnovers for them to win this game because their offense alone isn’t going to do it.

Now, this is the part where I compliment Notre Dame against Michigan. I am worried about the quarterback position for the Irish but maybe not as much as everyone else. Brandon Wimbush can play football, for some reason Notre Dame fans are all convinced that he can’t play at all. When Brandon Wimbush is rolling, he is as good as anyone in the country. When he’s not, he’s not. The reason I worry less about the situation than everyone else is because we have Ian Book as the second string quarterback. I originally stated that I wanted Ian Book to start, I’m going back on that. Brandon Wimbush brings an entirely different offense that can score a lot more points than an Ian Book offense. Best case scenario for a Book offense is slowly moving the ball down the field, one big play a game, and a ton of field goals, which you don’t want to play Michigan’s game against Michigan. Wimbush gives you the big play factor on every down that you need in college football. Wimbush will keep a Michigan defense honest. That being said, Wimbush is going to have to be better on crossing routes, and short passes for this season to be a success let alone the game against Michigan. If he can’t do it, then I feel okay with playing slower with Book and a great defense. I think with Shea Patterson being the starting quarterback for Michigan that Notre Dame’s defense will capitalize on mistakes made by Patterson ultimately making the offenses job easier leading to a Notre Dame victory. With everything being said, Wimbush will struggle against Michigan. They’re good on defense; this isn’t a fair test to determine if Wimbush is the guy or not.

The 2018-19 Irish

The offense could end up being really good and everyone looking like dumbasses. The offense does have talent in Claypool, Boykin, the offensive line, Wimbush, Book, Finke, Tony Jones, Dexter(after four games most likely), Kmet, and Armstrong but if I had to guess the offense will be fine with a great defense that makes the offense better. Notre Dame’s defense is going to be next level this year. They return 10 of 11 starters from the previous season. The defense as a whole should have an outstanding season. They have multiple good players in each group, and they have as much depth as they have had in the Kelly era. At times this season, the defense will look completely unstoppable. Starting up front, Kareem, Hayes, Tillery, and Okwara will be an excellent defensive line. Those won’t be the four starters, but those are going to be the four playmakers up front, which that being said they also have depth at those positions too. Tillery has gotten better and better every single year at Notre Dame, I expect this to be his best year yet, and that’s going to start with how Kareem, Okwara, and Hayes play to take doubles away from Tillery and move them elsewhere or take advantage of 1-on-1 situations. The less pressure on Tillery to make a play is only going to make him better. I don’t want to have to worry about the D-Line this year, and I don’t think I will have to that often. Moving on back to Tranquill and Coney. These are two players you won’t have to worry about doing their job. My only worry is this being Tranquill’s first year as a middle linebacker, but I worry less knowing Coney and Tranquill’s speed might be something we’ve never seen in my days of watching the Irish. Coney and Tranquill will cover sideline to sideline similar to Teo and Jaylon Smith days (I know it was a different defense). Tranquill also doesn’t get enough credit for how well he rushed the passer last year. The actual stats aren’t there saying he was great at rushing the quarterback but he helped defensive linemen get sacks on multiple occasions because he went straight through the line forcing the quarterback to move up or out of the pocket. I’m excited to watch Tranquill and Coney. I would write a big piece on who the rover is going to be in this group, but I don’t think Notre Dame is even sure. It sounds like Bilal is going to take the opening snaps against Michigan, but I don’t expect him to also play close to as many snaps as Tranquill did a year ago from the same position. On any passing down, I would assume you’re going to see Crawford, Griffith, Colemen or Studstill to come onto the field to play the rover. The rover just isn’t going to be as big of an impact position this year as it was last year. It’s going to be a constant rotation of players when last year it was mostly just Tranquill. I would go more in-depth with the rover position, but it’s still a big question mark. Now the defensive backs. The defensive backs might be my favorite group on the field. I don’t think people realize how good this group is going to be. The DB’s have four starting caliber players at both safety and corner, and if you’ve been a Notre Dame fan in these recent years, that’s completely unheard of. As of today, Gilman and Colemen are going to be starting at the safety position, which has improved from last year. The safeties last year didn’t make a positive difference in any game. Gilman alone will find a way to make a difference at least just tackling in the run game. As a freshman at Navy Gilman posted 76 tackles and five tackles for a loss. I expect to see Gilman coming down and making plays this year. Colemen and Griffith(True Freshmen) will most likely make up the majority of the snaps at the other safety position. Colemen is coming off of an excellent fall camp, which I think credits Griffith because Colemen knew he had to be better or he wasn’t going to play. Griffith playing this early in his career means big things for the Florida kid. Julian Love and Troy Pride Jr. make up the two starting corner spots. Before coming into this fall camp, we knew what we had with Love. Troy Pride to be just as good as Love in camp is not something Irish fans expected, but we are going to enjoy. Pride and Love having to defend Claypool and Boykins every day in practice is only going to help them when they start going against customarily sized receivers. No matter how well a 5’11 corner guards a 6’4 receiver if the ball is well thrown then the 5’11 corner shouldn’t have a shot at it. Now when you play a team where the receivers are 6’1-6’2, then it’s going to be more comfortable for Love and Pride to make a play. Very few teams will be able to have four 6’4 athletes on the field at one time like Notre Dame has had in camp. If I’ve ever seen a year where the Irish are going to be able to bring tons of blitzes to put pressure on the quarterback, it’s this year. The DB’s have excellent ball skills which allow you to try and apply more pressure on the QB because you trust your guys in 1-on-1’s. Everything I’ve said about the DB’s starts with how well the front 7 of the Irish play.

Notre Dame has the talent, especially on the defensive side of the football, to be playing in the playoffs in January. If this Notre Dame team fails to make the playoffs, then this season failed expectations, and Brian Kelly should probably worry about his job. I am not on the train that Brian Kelly has been a failure like a lot of Notre Dame fans are. Recruiting at Notre Dame isn’t easy, and maybe he wasn’t putting in his best effort in his middle years at Notre Dame, but he has been doing a great job the last few years since he has realized it’s win or leave. The 4-8 season isn’t all on Brian Kelly. You can’t expect a coach to win if half the team gets injured. Brian Kelly by no means is just a flat-out excellent coach, but he’s the coach of Notre Dame, so I’m going to ride or die Kelly.

Final Statement: Notre Dame will play in the 2018-19 College Football Playoffs.  

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