When Notre Dame contended for a College Football Playoff bid until the final weekend of 2015, it appeared that the program had turned a corner. Then came 2016 and a 4-8 train wreck that forced head coach Brian Kelly to shake up his coaching stuff.
For the most part, the results were positive as the Irish were again in the playoff hunt into November. While they stumbled down the stretch, there is hope that this is a new Notre Dame, one that can compete for major bowl appearances on a regular basis.
Can the Irish put together back-to-back 10-win seasons? Athlon asked a few editors and college football contributors to share their realistic win/loss projection for Notre Dame in 2018.
Notre Dame Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2018
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Notre Dame is an intriguing team to watch this fall. The Fighting Irish lost defensive coordinator Mike Elko to Texas A&M, but new play-caller Clark Lea should build on the 2017 progress by this unit. Lea returns nine starters and adds Navy transfer Alohi Gilman at safety. If Notre Dame is going to challenge for a CFB Playoff spot, it has to get more out of its passing game. Quarterback Brandon Wimbush (above, right) is talented but was inconsistent in his first year as the starter. There’s even more pressure on Wimbush with the departure of running back Josh Adams and offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson. The Fighting Irish will be tested right away with a matchup against Michigan and key swing games against Florida State and Stanford take place at home. If Wimbush takes a step forward, hitting double-digit victories is within reach. However, I’m not sure Notre Dame will make the jump from 10-3 to 11-1 or 12-0.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Notre Dame's 2018 schedule isn't loaded with great teams — Michigan is the only preseason top-10 team (according to Athlon Sports) on the slate — but there are a bunch of other opponents who are good enough to beat the Fighting Irish. In fact, I'd say the Week 2 home date with Ball State is the only sure win, though ND will be heavily favored against both Vanderbilt and Syracuse. The trip to Wake Forest will be tricky (QB Kendall Hinton will be back for the Deacons after serving a three-game suspension), and Stanford, Virginia Tech, Florida State and USC are all ranked in the top 25. My best guess for the Irish are losses in the opener and finale as well as a home defeat against Florida State in early November.
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
This has a chance to be one of Brian Kelly's better Irish teams and it wouldn't be shocking to have them on the fringes of playoff discussion most of the season. Brandon Wimbush really has nowhere to go but up as a passer and I think there's a good chance he's more than solid under center going forward. Finding some explosive playmakers will be a big task but there are plenty of options and this defense is absolutely loaded. The travel the schedule brings is tricky this season as it usually is but another double-digit win campaign seems like a pretty solid bet.
Jon Kinne (@JonRKinne)
This should be a more than solid defensive football team. Mike Elko is off coordinating Texas A&M’s defense, but his right hand man Clark Lea takes over and will run the same system. A bunch of production returns and the new starters may actually force more negative plays due to their increased explosiveness.
But the offense, despite having a lot of raw talent, has a slew of question marks. First and foremost, can Brandon Wimbush be a competent passer? Ian Book is in reserve, but the staff wants Wimbush to win the job and is giving him every opportunity. That is telling. There is inexperience all over the skill position groupings and an experienced line does lose two top-10 NFL draft picks.
I feel the expectations for ND in 2018 are too high. This is a good team that is capable of beating anyone on the schedule….and one that on a bad day could lose to most of the teams it will face. I believe the Irish will win some big games, lose to three of their tougher opponents, and then drop one game they should win. Because of the program’s November struggles over the past few years, I’ll say they will lose the road game in Evanston. As a result, 8-4 will be the final mark.