Notre Dame rebounded in a big way off of a dismal 2016 campaign to post a 10-3 mark last season and end the year as the No. 11 team in the nation. Let’s check out their prospects for the upcoming season and what the oddsmakers are dealing on the Irish.
Building Off a Cinderella Season
Notre Dame went from a 4-8 also-ran to a 10-3 near College Football Playoff contender in just one season. The question is whether or not the Irish will fall back to their 2016 iteration or improve upon a surprisingly good season in which they toppled No. 17 LSU in the Citrus Bowl. Let’s preview the expectations for this year’s Fighting Irish.
2018 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
There are two immediate and gaping voids that will need to be filled on the offensive line after Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey were chosen sixth and ninth, respectively, in the 2018 NFL draft. Those are a pair of size 17 shoes, and it is doubtful that there are any feet big enough on this roster to fill them and provide that steel curtain protection that was the foundation of the Irish offense last season.
In addition, running back Josh Adams received some not so sage career advice and bolted to the NFL after his junior year only to go undrafted but ultimately signed by the Philadelphia Eagles. Adams rushed for over 1,400 yards and nine touchdowns and the rushing duties were supposed to be filled primarily by last year’s backup Dexter Williams. However, a cloud hangs over Williams as a suspension is potentially looming and it could be as severe as four games. Tony Jones Jr. would be the most likely beneficiary of a Williams’ suspension, sharing duties with sophomore wide receiver-turned-running back Jafar Armstrong.
The good news is that the Irish have two quarterbacks with experience in presumed starter Brandon Wimbush and backup Ian Book, who saved the day with his fourth-quarter heroics in the Citrus Bowl. Head coach Brian Kelly has stated that due to Book’s improvement the shackles would be taken off of Wimbush’s propensity to run the ball. Last season, Kelly was reluctant to subject Wimbush to more running that necessary as he had little confidence in Book’s ability to assume the reins in the event Wimbush got injured. That is no longer the case, and having a dual threat at the most important position on the field is always a good thing. In addition, Notre Dame is stacked at wide receiver with Miles Boykin headlining that group and a pair of twin terrors at tight end in Alize Mack and Cole Kmet.
The defense has a new coordinator with Clark Lea, the Irish linebackers’ coach last season, getting the internal promotion after Mike Elko left for Texas A&M. Nine starters will be returning on defense, which should make the transition relatively smooth for Lea. More ball-hawking from the safeties will be needed as not one pick from that position was recorded last season.
A quick click over to Sportsbook Review, the definitive word in sports betting and a site that features current lines from the best online sportsbooks on the planet, tells us that the oddsmakers are somewhat tepid in terms of Notre Dame’s prospects this season. The team that posted 10 wins in 2017 is currently being offered at 9½ (U-120) wins on the 2018 regular season.
Moreover, Notre Dame is currently +4500 to win a national championship, but the Irish put themselves behind the eight-ball in that pursuit by remaining as an independent, one of six schools left as such. If it’s a toss-up between Notre Dame and a team that won its conference championship against what we assume would be a top-notch opponent, then the tie goes to the runner – and Notre Dame will never be the runner. If the CFP rules change and a conference championship is required for consideration then expect Notre Dame to reconsider and join the ACC, the football conference that Notre Dame began a loose affiliation with four years ago (Irish are full basketball members) and a contract that runs through 2037.
In short, there are too many question marks on this team between the status of Williams, the loss of not one but two top 10 overall NFL draft picks on the offensive line, and a defense that may not be better than last season’s. Despite a bevy of classy receivers, we’re not sold on either Wimbush or Book as being game-changing passers. All of that adds up to a fade on the Irish, a team that has not delivered back-to-back double-digit winning seasons in over 25 years. If you got a hunch, bet a bunch and go under 9½ wins at one of the sportsbooks featured at Sportsbook Review.