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Notre Dame Football: Will the Fighting Irish Win 10 or More Games in 2020?

Ian Book, Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football

Ian Book, Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football

Notre Dame is likely to open the season ranked in the top 10 of most preseason rankings for the 2020 college football season. The Fighting Irish are 33-6 over the last three years and have won at least 10 games in four out of the last five seasons. Coach Brian Kelly’s squad is led by senior quarterback Ian Book, and the defense brings back five starters off a unit that limited teams to 17.9 points a game in 2019. The schedule isn’t too taxing for 2020 but does feature Clemson, USC, Louisville, Pitt and Wisconsin. Even though the slate features some challenging games, Notre Dame should be favored in at least 10 contests.

Will Notre Dame win 10 or more games in 2020? That was the question posed to Athlon editors and college football contributors.

Notre Dame Football: Will the Fighting Irish Win 10 or More Games in 2020?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

Notre Dame has won at least 10 games in each of the last three years, and barring any major injuries, I expect coach Brian Kelly’s team to hit that mark once again. Senior quarterback Ian Book anchors an offense that averaged 36.8 points a game – the highest mark in a single season from 2009-19. Not many changes are expected under new play-caller Tommy Rees, but the offense will have to find a couple of new go-to targets with receiver Chase Claypool and tight end Cole Kmet off to the NFL. However, an experienced offensive line and the arrival of a couple of talented freshmen at the skill positions should keep the offense performing at a high level. Notre Dame’s defense has holes to fill at every level, but coordinator Clark Lea should prevent a major drop in production. Additionally, the continued development of linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and safety Kyle Hamilton provide the defense with two impact players. The schedule features three neutral site games – including a matchup against Wisconsin in Green Bay – and only three true road games. Contests against the Badgers, USC, Pitt, Louisville and Clemson are tough, but I think the Fighting Irish find a way to get to 10-2 at the end of the regular season.

Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)

For all of the criticism he received early, Brian Kelly has led Notre Dame to a 33-6 record over the last three seasons, including a trip to the College Football Playoff. That likely won't happen this season but this will be another dangerous Fighting Irish team that's capable of staying in the conversation for the duration. Does that mean Notre Dame can reach double-digits wins again?

With Ian Book leading the offense and plenty of talent elsewhere, especially along the offensive line, there are just a few games on the Irish's schedule that should be problematic. The headliner, of course, is the must-see matchup with Clemson, but that takes place at home. Notre Dame will face Wisconsin in Lambeau Field and the only other game paper that looks to be a potential land mine right now is the finale in Los Angeles against a USC team that has failed to live up to expectations during the Irish's aforementioned run of success. The pieces are certainly in place for another double-digit win campaign and I think the Irish will come through; it just may take the bowl game to get there.

Ben Weinrib (@benweinrib)

With quarterback Ian Book returning for his senior year, there's no doubt that the Fighting Irish will have a strong offense. Don't worry about the losses of their top three receivers, there's plenty of talent left in South Bend. Notre Dame won't be a serious playoff contender, but 10 games is a low bar to clear, especially with six ACC games on the schedule. Even if you assume the home game against Clemson is a loss, there just aren't that many tough games out there. A neutral-site game against Wisconsin will be tricky, but they should be favored against Stanford, Louisville, and USC. It's easy to see 10 regular-season wins, and there's always an extra possible win out there in a bowl game. For what it's worth, Brian Kelly has won four of his last six postseason games.

Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB)

It may be time to brace ourselves for the "more playoff teams" conversation focusing on the Fighting Irish, because this is a 10-win team with the schedule facing them this season. Notre Dame does have some difficult games — against Wisconsin in Lambeau Field and a home game against Clemson in early November — but Brian Kelly’s program is well-suited to reach that Clemson bout with no more than one loss at the most. The Irish actually face a potentially dangerous November schedule, but they’ll scratch their way to 10 wins.

Jon Kinne (@JonRKinne)

After posting double-digit win totals in each of the last three seasons (as well as four of the past five), winning 10 games has become the expectation in South Bend and it should be again in 2020. Notre Dame does lose some skill position personnel, but the younger players, especially at receiver, have loads of talent. All the key pieces are back on the offensive line and Ian Book has won a lot of big games at quarterback. Defensively, the Irish should be strong again with emerging star Kyle Hamilton in the secondary and playmaker Jeremiah Owusu-Karomoah at linebacker. 

Notre Dame will face a huge challenge when Clemson comes to town and games against Wisconsin at Lambeau Field, USC at the Coliseum, and at pesky Pittsburgh won't be easy. But playing the Irish won't be fun for those teams either. Yes, the Irish will win 10 games again. But the bigger question is, can they win their first major bowl game since 1994?

Nicholas Ian Allen (@NicholasIAllen)

Coming off three straight double-digit-winning seasons, with quarterback Ian Book returning behind what should be one of the best offensive lines in the country, as well as a talented defense, it would appear Notre Dame has a great shot to reach 10 victories again in 2020.

As usual, the schedule features several tough matchups, but the Fighting Irish might be favored in every regular-season game other than the visit from Clemson in early November. According to CFB Winning Edge overall Talent Edge matchups, Notre Dame has the most talented team in 10 of its 12 regular-season contests, with the Tigers and USC being the only exceptions.

And even if the Irish are underdogs against both Wisconsin at Lambeau Field and on the road against the Trojans in the finale, Notre Dame would need only to take care of business in its other nine games and pull off one upset to finish 10-2. Since Brian Kelly’s squad hasn’t lost to an unranked foe since 2016, 10 wins seem like a good bet.

Juan Jose Rodriguez (@JuanJoseRG02)

With its dominant Camping World Bowl win, Notre Dame closed out 2019 with an 11-2 record, posting consecutive 11-win seasons for the first time since 1988-89 and matching the program record for wins in a three-season span (33).

The schedule appears favorable for the Irish winning at least 10 games in 2020. The slate includes neutral-site dates with Navy and Wisconsin, as well as a November showdown at home with Clemson. While those might appear daunting, fifth-year senior quarterback Ian Book returns as a proven leader for the Irish, and he'll be surrounded by a wealth of talent on both sides of the ball. With only one true road game in the first six weeks — paired with Notre Dame’s 16-1 mark in home and neutral-site games since 2018 — another 10-win season and some late-season magic is certainly attainable, if not the expectation, for Notre Dame in 2020.