The Notre Dame Fighting Irish keep being asked by a lot of college football fans, and some college football columnists, to join a conference and play within the constraints and pressures faced by the other elite programs in the sport. Yet, Notre Dame insists on remaining as an independent. This means that Notre Dame plays only 12 games and not 13, which influences an over-under number.
Will this team be able to go over its regular season win total of 9.5 in 2018? Consider the details laid out below.
Notre Dame 2018 regular season win total
Odds courtesy of BetDSI Sportsbook.
What Happened Last Year
The Irish rebounded from their miserable 2016 season, but in the same breath, they did not rise to the very top of their sport. They faced Miami in early November with a chance to nail down a New Year’s Six bowl bid, which would be huge for the growth and development of the program, but they got blown out. That would have been bad enough for Notre Dame, but then came a loss to Stanford when a New Year’s Six bid was still on the table. Merely splitting those games probably would have given the Irish their preferred postseason destination, but instead they went 0 for 2. That left a bitter taste in the mouths of players who overachieved in the first two months but then faltered at the end of the line.
What Will Change This Year
Defensive coordinator Mike Elko, who did a very good job with the unit he had, moved to Texas A&M to become defensive coordinator under new head coach Jimbo Fisher. That will be the biggest adjustment for the Notre Dame defense, which will have a fourth new coordinator over the course of the past three seasons, a level of instability which is hard to deal with.
The offensive side of the ball will also have its share of difficulties. Elite offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey are gone, as is running back Josh Adams. That’s a lot of quality to replace. Notre Dame was able to mash the ball against opponents with the ground game, and what made the running game work was not Adams alone or the offensive line alone, but the two units working together. That harmony will be tougher to achieve this season, and it will lower the Irish’s margin for error.
Outlook & Prediction
The Irish face Michigan, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Stanford, Northwestern, and USC. Those are the six toughest games on the schedule. If Notre Dame wins three of those games, it will finish with the under, since it does not play a 13th game, otherwise known as a conference championship game. If Notre Dame wins four of those games, it will reach 10 and cover the number. The verdict here is that Notre Dame will win only three and fall under the number – it will lose the road games against Virginia Tech and USC, also the home game against Stanford. It is more likely that Notre Dame will win three of those games than four, but it’s close.
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