After overcoming a rough 2016 season, Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are coming back to a highly-anticipated 2018 season as the team possesses all the keys necessary to winning another bowl game this year.
With two 2017 All-American players selected in top 10 of the 2018 NFL Draft this season, it goes without saying that Notre Dame will have to invest more than time and effort into replacing offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson. Though they will be missed, seniors Alex Bars and Sam Mustipher will be the likely replacements as they combined for a total of 62 career starts in the blue and gold. Combine their skill and seniority with Tommy Kraemer, a starter and blue-chip freshman last year, Notre Dame will have a strong offensive presence this year.
After seeing quarterback Ian Book under center in the Citrus Bowl last year, it begs the question of whether he will be worthy of starting against Michigan this year. Though his air game is strong, Brandon Wimbush was the meat and potatoes that led Notre Dame to the bowl last year, which likely will result in him taking the snaps to start the season. Regardless of quarterback, there are two strong options for Kelly to choose from.
On the defensive side of the ball, there is not a whole lot of ground lost from last season. While losing captain Nyles Morgan will be a tough dilemma, Notre Dame should not lose too many steps with the help of leading tackler Te’von Coney,
The biggest key on defense will be for the safeties to sharpen their impact this season. As the linebackers stopped most of the run game last season, the safeties will need to focus on tearing down the passing game.
Overall, Notre Dame’s season could weigh heavily on how well it takes care of Michigan in the season-opener. With statistics saying the Irish should win nine-and-a-half games this year, the Michigan home opener resulting in a loss severely could impact that nine-game win expectation.