Just how much will the Fighting Irish bounce back after going 4-8 last season?
At this point in camp, every college football team in America is eagerly awaiting the start of the season. But Notre Dame, coming off a disastrous 4-8 2016 campaign that ignited questions about the future of the head coach, may want things to get going more than any other program.
To that end, the Sept. 2 opener against Temple – and then the following week vs. Georgia – will give Brian Kelly and the Fighting Irish an opportunity to start this season off on the right foot and hopefully help put last year completely in the rearview mirror.
So what does 2017 hold for Notre Dame? Athlon polled a few writers for their take on the Irish’s realistic win/loss projections for this season.
Notre Dame Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2017
Jon Kinne (@JonRKinne)
It won’t take much for Notre Dame to be better than last year. But there should be significant improvement beyond the record. The offensive line should be very good, giving new quarterback Brandon Wimbush some relief both in pass protection and by opening up holes in the running game. The defense lacks playmakers but new coordinator Mike Elko pieced together strong units with less talent at Wake Forest. While the Irish should take a step forward, they will only move so far. Georgia, USC, Miami, and Stanford are all in the Athlon Sports’ Top 25 and NC State is close. Plus, there are important games against the likes of Michigan State, North Carolina, and, of course, Navy. Coming off of last year’s embarrassment, the Irish will get back to a mid-level bowl game.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
There’s no doubt last year’s 4-8 mark was a huge disappointment for Notre Dame. However, some perspective on the losses is worth mentioning here. The Fighting Irish lost seven of their games by no more than eight points and finished with a minus-four turnover margin. That suggests some bad luck, which is due to reverse in 2017. I expect Brian Kelly’s team to rebound to eight wins, especially with the emergence of quarterback Brandon Wimbush and the addition of two standout coordinators. The biggest concern for this team remains the defense, but new play-caller Mike Elko should help this group improve over the course of the season.
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
You are what your record is and Notre Dame was 4-8 last season. Examining things a little closer would reveal the team was better than that number would indicate though, given how many games the Irish simply gave away in the second half. I would expect those issues to be reversed in 2017, with the Irish winning more close games than they lose. The new coaches that Brian Kelly has brought in will pay off immediately and this will always be a talented team with so many top-15 recruiting classes. The schedule sets up well for a rebound and a double-digit win season isn’t completely out of the question if quarterback play is solid enough.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB)
Fire up that Brian Kelly hot seat talk, because this season may not be pretty for him and the Fighting Irish. After going just 4-8 last season, the Irish may be hard-pressed just to make it to a bowl game once again this fall. Wins will not be coming easily for the Irish this season, and even the games I am predicting are not necessarily going to be automatic wins for the Irish. My gut reaction to a number of these games is not favorable for Notre Dame, but if Notre Dame can flip one or two of the early losses to go its way, the season outlook will be marginally better. Ending the season on a three-game skid will not be easy to take, however.
J.P. Scott (@TheJPScott)
I like the talent Notre Dame returns on offense from a personnel standpoint, but a new scheme combined with inexperience at quarterback doesn't bode well against what amounts to be a solid schedule. On defense, I worry about the Irish’s ability to slow down some of the outstanding rushing attacks they'll face. I just don't think the 2017 version is that much better than the team that went 4-8 a season ago. And back to that schedule, it's stronger than what they faced in 2016.