Staff season predictions
Observer Sports Staff | Friday, April 15, 2016
This year’s Irish squad will be led by a crew of new faces, but that doesn’t mean a return to the playoff discussion isn’t outside the realm of possibility. Notre Dame’s schedule is solid, but not prohibitively difficult, the perfect spot to be in.
But it’s tough to say too much until we see how the pieces fit together. Can Nyles Morgan step up to lead the defense? Who’s the quarterback — Malik Zaire or DeShone Kizer? Will the offensive line hold strong? Can the Irish get a pass rush going?
At the end of the day, I think this team is one year away from truly contending for a national title. The Irish reach a second straight New Year’s Six bowl, however, after a season-ending win at USC.
Whether it’s Malik Zaire or DeShone Kizer or some combination of the two at the helm this fall, it seems almost certain that the Notre Dame offense will be able to put up a lot of points, especially given the presence of senior running back Tarean Folston.
In today’s game – and taking into account the 2016 schedule – a lot of points should mean a lot of wins, as long as the defense is solid. With no established stars like Jaylon Smith, there are no guarantees, but there is promise at every defensive position. Notre Dame’s success this year hinges on how much promise materializes into production.
The Irish are far from unbeatable, but also capable of defeating anyone on any given Saturday. Or Sunday, if it’s Texas.
Notre Dame has talent on both sides of the ball, that’s part of the certainty that comes with being Notre Dame. But outside of that, there’s serious question marks surrounding this team. Who will be quarterback? Can anyone fill the voids left by Will Fuller and company at the receiver spots? Will a less-experienced defense be able to grasp Brian VanGorder’s complicated schemes?
Certainly, the schedule has its soft spots. But even without their quarterbacks from last season, Michigan State and USC will be difficult games for Notre Dame. Miami and Texas are wild card teams, both capable of giving the Irish a run for their money. And Stanford will compete for a national championship this season.
With all that talent on the roster, Notre Dame will have plenty of moments this season. But it will also have its pitfalls.
This year’s Irish squad resembles a Ferrari — a lot of flash, but not a lot of mileage or substance.
With this year’s squad losing a lot of talent to graduation and the NFL Draft, the Irish will need to find a way to account for Will Fuller’s production at receiver, prevent the big plays that burned the secondary last season and, most importantly, figure out a way to stay healthy for once.
Between Texas, Michigan State, Stanford and USC, Notre Dame will drop at least one game, which would keep it in the College Football Playoff discussion.
That said, I don’t see it happening: the Irish will fall to Michigan State and USC, as well as the usual one game a year they shouldn’t lose and do. Circle a letdown in Raleigh, North Carolina, the week before the revenge game against Stanford as the scariest game of the year.