Staff Predictions: 2020 regular season
Observer Sports Staff | Friday, September 11, 2020
Hayden Adams — Sports Editor
I’ll admit, my season prediction last year was way too optimistic, and that was when we had an entire spring season and fall camp to actually evaluate this team. I think it’s safe to say though that, considering literally every other team is in the same boat, Notre Dame’s first ever season in a conference bodes well for them with a 14-1 record the last three seasons against non-Clemson ACC teams. There are teams to worry about like Pitt, Louisville and North Carolina, but in reality this schedule is easier than what the Irish originally had slated for the 2020 season. One of the few things I’ve gleaned from this process is how well this Notre Dame team is handling its business with COVID-19 protocols, and I think that translates to the field. Combine that with superior talent than most teams can boast, and even if it isn’t pretty, I see the Irish finishing with one regular season loss at worst and making the conference championship game in a rematch of their Nov. 7 game against Clemson.
SEASON PREDICTION: 10-1
Jimmy Ward — Associate Sports Editor
The Irish are lucky to be playing this schedule instead of their original 2020 schedule. A team that probably would have missed the CFP by a mile will now turn into a team that can suffer a loss or even two in its regular season and still be in the conversation through the ACC Championship. And the Irish should be glad they have that wiggle room because this ACC schedule is nothing to bat an eye at. Clemson remains as the singular daunting obstacle.
Ian Book is returning to start under center and has legitimate Heisman potential. If he navigates ACC defenses like he has in the past and learns to spread the field with his new targets he will be able to give Dabo Swinney’s Tigers a run for their money in November, December and possibly even a third time in January in the Playoffs. The Irish are in contention for the playoffs every year but always seem to fall inches short. The stars seem to have aligned this year: The Irish are in a conference. They are playing football when other schools around the country are not, Ohio State and Michigan to name a few. Notre Dame will not be able to beat Clemson in their first game of the season but they will meet again at the ACC Championship. This game will be the final test for Ian Book, and I think it will be this game that will determine whether the Irish have what it takes this year to win a national title and if Book has what it takes to give the Irish the claim of having the most Heisman winners of all time.
SEASON PREDICTION: 10-1
Charlotte Edmonds — Senior Sports Writer
For the past three years I’ve struggled to understand the eternal optimism of senior writers on this beat. Alas, here we are. While I’m not going to be so bold as to suggest Notre Dame will run the table, I have a good feeling about this team. They were disrespected in the bowl game selection last year and responded accordingly with a 33-9 win over Iowa State. While the secondary and receiving corps lost major contributors to graduation and the NFL Draft, they’ve reloaded with a deep lineup of untested but talented players. Notre Dame also no longer has to worry about the pressure of big-time games (i.e. Wisconsin) or the intricacies of Navy’s triple option. Unfortunately for the Irish, Clemson is just a different breed of football, and I anticipate will be too much for them to overcome even at home. However, despite a narrow regular-season loss to the Tigers, the Irish will have their way with the rest of the ACC and will meet Dabo for the third time in as many years in the conference championship.
SEASON PREDICTION: 10-1
Ellen Geyer — Senior Sports Writer
Ah, the inaugural season prediction. If the past six months have taught me anything, it’s that life is a crushing disappointment. The resident beat pessimist returns! I will admit that Notre Dame’s schedule certainly got easier after joining the ACC (take that, literally everyone), but the Irish still face an uphill battle with Clemson. The two pieces of good news are that the Tigers aren’t on the schedule until November, and that they’ll likely incur seasonal affective disorder during their two-day stay in the dirty Bend. However, Trevor Lawrence’s squad will still be too much for the Irish, handing Notre Dame what I anticipate will be their first loss of the season. Dejected, the Irish will falter in one of the two subsequent games — BC or UNC — ending with two losses on the year. They’ll still qualify for the ACC championship, but will once again prove outmatched in the Cotton Bowl 3.0.
SEASON PREDICTION: 9-2
Aidan Thomas — Sports Writer
To predict the Notre Dame football season is to try and mix my pessimism — garnered from rooting for the Irish for a decade — with my somewhat unwarranted optimism that has me desperately believing that 2021 will bring about the end of the national championship drought in South Bend. That being said, I’m ready to push my chips to the center of the table with this Notre Dame squad. It is said that good teams rebuild and good programs reload. This will be a key year to determine what exactly Brian Kelly has built. He has a quarterback in his third year under center, but fifth-year Ian Book will be surrounded by a cast of largely unproven skill position players. The defense lost a lot, but they also return Kyle Hamilton, Daelin Hayes and numerous other promising pieces.
Can this intriguing blend of talent mesh together for a promising season? I’m saying yes. The biggest game on the schedule is obviously Clemson, whom the Irish host on Nov. 7. Clemson has not won a true road game against a top-10 opponent since 2009, and it’s a challenge they haven’t even faced in the Trevor Lawrence era. Notre Dame hasn’t lost at home since the Georgia takeover in 2017, and they haven’t lost by more than a possession at home since 2013. I think Notre Dame keeps it close against Clemson and takes the win late. That leaves me worried about trap games like their visit to Pitt or their trip to Chapel Hill to take on North Carolina. There’s opportunity for the Irish to trip up, but I’m allowing my optimism to get the best of me. It’ll be an undefeated regular season for the Irish and a trip to the ACC Championship.
SEASON PREDICTION: 11-0