Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Overall Rank: #14
Notre Dame did turn things around last season after their disaster of a 2016 campaign. The Irish won ten games and picked up some solid wins over the likes of Michigan State, North Carolina, USC and North Carolina State. And then the Irish picked up another impressive victory over LSU in the Citrus Bowl.
2017 Record: 10-3
2017 Bowl: Citrus Bowl vs. LSU (W 21-17)
Coach: Brian Kelly (69-34 at Notre Dame, 240-92-2 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Chip Young
Defensive Coordinator: Clark Lea
Rushing: Brandon Wimbush, QB, 803 yards
Passing: Brandon Wimbush, QB, 1,870 yards
Receiving: Chase Claypool, WR, 402 yards
Tackles: Te’von Coney, LB, 116
Sacks: Jerry Tillery, DT, 4.5
Interceptions: Julian Love, CB, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Dexter Williams, WR Miles Boykin, OL Sam Mustipher, OL Alex Bars, LB Drue Tranquill, S Nick Coleman, DE Daelin Hayes, K Justin Yoon
Key Losses: RB Josh Adams, WR Equanimeous St. Brown, WR Kevin Stepherson, OL Quenton Nelson, OL Mike McGlinchey, LB Nyles Morgan, LB Greer Martini
Notre Dame’s offense relied heavily on their ground game last season. But without running back Josh Adams and offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey, there are some huge questions in the rushing attack. Adams ran for 1,430 yards during his junior year before heading for the NFL. Dexter Williams will take over the lead rushing job after rushing for 360 yards and four touchdowns in a reserve role in 2017. Now more pressure will be put on junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush. He was vastly inconsistent, completing just 49.5 percent of his passes, but Wimbush is efficient in the red zone due to his ability to run with the ball. Coach Brian Kelly has other options at quarterback, most notably Ian Book following his impressive performance in the Citrus Bowl.
Notre Dame returns nine starters to a defense that generally played quite well during defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s debut season. Elko is now gone, but new coordinator Clark Lea should continue the success. The front four has plenty of experience, led by Jerry Tillery at defensive tackle. At linebacker, seniors Te’von Coney and Drue Tranquill combined to tally 201 tackles. With those two joining a talented front line, Notre Dame’s run defense should be much improved. The secondary failed to make big plays last year, but there are four starters returning. The addition of Navy transfer Alohi Gilman could add a much needed playmaker at safety.
The Bottom Line:
Notre Dame has the potential for another solid season. If the offense can become more balanced, the Irish can beat anybody on any given day. Of course, the schedule is tough as usual. The season begins with a home date against Michigan and Stanford, Virginia Tech and Florida State are also on the slate. Those are some tough games. And Notre Dame finishes the season with perhaps their toughest game of all, at USC. This may not be the best Notre Dame team of the recent past, but a ten win season is a reasonable goal.
Projected Bowl: Sun Bowl
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 269.3 (7th in nation, 2nd of independents)
Passing Offense: 178.9 (102, 3)
Total Offense: 448.2 (27, 1)
Scoring Offense: 34.2 (24, 1)
Rushing Defense: 154.5 (51, 2)
Pass Defense: 214.7 (53, 3)
Total Defense: 369.2 (46, 2)
Scoring Defense: 21.5 (31, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.23 (46, 3)
Sacks: 1.85 (83, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 2.31 (83, 3)