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Expected critical players for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Scott Horner, DO NOT USE
Why Notre Dame will make the College Football Playoff:
It is what’s up front that counts, and Notre Dame features strength on both lines. Linebacker Te’von Coney is a Butkus Award candidate on a solid defense, and cornerback Julian Love is a preseason All-American. Quarterback Brandon Wimbush inevitably will improve passing accuracy, and he remains a dangerous runner. In close games, Justin Yoon can make a difference — he was 14-of-18 on field goals and made all 55 extra points. With five preseason Top 20 opponents, there can be no question about strength of schedule if the Fighting Irish go 11-1, or even 10-2.
Why it won’t:
The Irish simply have been unable to close. An 8-1 record became 9-3 in 2017, and coach Brian Kelly is 4-11 against Power 5 opponents over five Novembers. The schedule is unforgiving: No. 14 Michigan, No. 13 Stanford, at No. 17 Virginia Tech, No. 19 Florida State, at No. 15 USC. What happens if the Irish lose to the Wolverines? They would nearly be out of the race for the CFP four on Sept. 1. And they are 2-7 in the past nine games against Stanford.
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