As we continue trying to preseason rank our power 5 conferences and the teams within them, we must also cover those pesky independent teams who refuse to join a conference. First on that list the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Notre Dame has been a longstanding independent team but that does not mean they always have the fairest schedule. The Irish constantly have a schedule of playing some of the toughest teams around the College Football landscape and this season is no exception. It’s time to break down Notre Dame’s upcoming schedule on how they might fare in their regular season record, upset opportunities for opposing teams, and their national championship odds.
Notre Dame Odds & Betting Preview
Odds To Win National Championship:
Regular Season Win Total Odds:
Notre Dame is entering a new era of Fighting Irish Football after Head Coach Brian Kelly jumped ship for LSU. Now we enter the Marcus Freeman era as last year’s Defensive Coordinator is now the head man in South Bend. While head coaching changes may often stir up a team a little bit into questionable waters, do not expect the Irish to be too shaken up this year from last. Freeman was last year’s defensive coordinator, and the Irish also returned offensive coordinator Tommy Rees. From a scheme standpoint, don’t expect a lot of changes. We will have to wait and see if the head coach chair is too heavy for Freeman once the season rolls around.
The Irish are projected to enter the season as a top-ten team in AP rankings and are also in the top ten for odds-on favorites to win the national championship this season with a near 20% projected chance to make the College Football Playoffs. The Irish are currently hovering around -125 at 8.5 wins, but 9.5 might be a better line personally as this team has a lot of returning pieces that could keep this team competitive.
Notre Dame is returning seven offensive and seven defensive starters from last year’s team which should bring some stability to a team undergoing coaching changes. One big new starter that will be the answer to how successful they can truly be will be QB Tyler Buchner. The sophomore is expected to be the starter over Drew Pyne and this will be a different look from last year with QB Jack Coan.
Buchner was Notre Dame’s second-leading rusher last year and is much more mobile than Coan. Expect him to be a weapon on the ground as well as in the air. He may not have the same arm talent as Coan, but he will make up for it with his rushing ability. He will have one of the best tight ends in the country to throw to in Michael Mayer. Last year he was able to catch 71 passes for 840 yards and seven TDS. He is expected to be a potential first-round pick in next year’s NFL draft. With leading rusher Kyren Williams gone, expect junior RB Chris Tyree to step up big time in Williams’ absence.
With Freeman moving up to the head coaching spot, the defense will have a new leader in charge with new defensive coordinator Al Golden. Al Golden has spent the last couple of years with Cincinnati as linebackers coach, and he’ll have a good defensive lineup to work with. Returning LB JD Bertrand returns and was leading tackler for the Irish last season. The addition of transfer Brandon Joseph Sr. from Northwestern will be a huge addition in the secondary at the Safety position. He was a two-time All-American at Northwestern and a potential first-round pick in next year’s NFL draft. The return of pass rusher Isiah Foskey will be huge at getting to the quarterback as well. If this defense is able to keep up their high takeaway numbers from previous seasons, it will be a huge reason why the Irish are successful this year.
Notre Dame Schedule Breakdown
Getting into the ND schedule, they certainly have some tough matchups that will be important to keep an eye on when looking into betting on their win total for the season. Week one will be a tough matchup where the Irish will be coming in as underdogs against the national title contender Ohio State Buckeyes. This will be a hard first test for new coach Freeman. I would project this to be a loss for the Irish, but I do believe they will keep it close during the game. This potential loss should not derail season momentum.
Weeks two and three should both be easy wins for the Irish going up against mid-major Marshall and then a California team that has not been a contender in the Pac-12 in the last couple years. Week four matchup against North Carolina should be a tougher contest as the Tar Heels are projected to be a top-25 team this season and expect a better season than their 6-7 record from last year. I project Notre Dame to win this matchup but this will certainly be a game to look out for on their schedule that could be a potential upset spot.
Week 5 should be another big test for the Irish against the BYU Cougars. BYU is another independent football team and finished 10-3 last season. This game is also Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series of the year, which a series Notre Dame has played in since 2009. While this should be a good matchup, an important stat to remember is that Notre Dame has not lost a Shamrock Series game since the induction of the series.
Notre Dame’s next three matchups are against Stanford, UNLV, and Syracuse which should all be big wins for the Irish as Stanford has fallen on tough times in the past years in the PAC-12, finishing last year with only three wins. Week 9 against Clemson will be a huge game for the Irish and Clemson as they near their playoff push. Going into the season, Notre Dame is looking like underdogs in this matchup and time will only tell if this stays true. What we do know is if Notre Dame wants to make a push to the playoffs this will be a major game on their resume.
Week 10 and 11 are against Navy and Boston College which on paper should both be wins. One thing to keep in mind is that the Irish play both of these teams almost yearly and very often these games are a lot closer then projected so these could be potential upset spots to watch out for.
Their final matchup of the season will be against the USC Trojans. While in the last couple years Notre Dame has dominated against their rival, USC is also undergoing a new head coach and look this season. The addition of HC Lincoln Riley and QB Caleb Williams has a lot of experts high on the Trojans. Notre Dame may be projected to win this year but many have USC higher on national championship contention. This game is a coin flip right now for me that could see Notre Dame winning or losing.
This season will see a new era of Notre Dame Football but expect the same high-quality football they’ve turned out the past decade and expect them to fall near the border once again of the College Football Playoffs. How they play in some of their major matchup games will let us know what side of the border they end up on.