Let the fun begin! While most of the ISD customers are anxiously anticipating Saturday's kickoff, we know you've all been dying to read our season predictions. Will the Irish end up back in the Championship Game? Or will the loss of some key members from 2012 become too much to overcome to get back to the BCS and big game?
The loss of Everett Golson was a big blow to Notre Dame's title hopes, in my opinion. But that doesn't mean they can't still have a great season, which I think could happen.
I believe Irish fans will see a new and improved Tommy Rees at quarterback. One who makes good decisions, limits turnovers, feels pressure better, and shows great leadership. His play will be good enough to win most games on Notre Dame's schedule.
As published today, I can't see Temple giving Notre Dame much trouble, so count that as a W. On to Michigan……
This game scares me. Not because Michigan is better than Notre Dame, they're not. But because it's Michigan, it's at night, and the Irish just don't traditionally play well there. Does ND break the trend?
I'm a big believer in line play making the difference in games like this, and this is why I think Notre Dame wins this game. They'll have the superior offensive and defensive line, and I believe Notre Dame has more playmakers on offense. It won't be pretty, but the Irish win.
Purdue has a new coach, but same story for the Boilermakers------another loss to the Irish.
Michigan State last year reminded me of the Irish in 2011……a team on there verge of being good, but always finding a way to lose. Will the Spartans fix this in time when they travel to South Bend? The Irish win a difficult, hard-fought game against the Spartans.
A lot of Irish fans are worried about Oklahoma, and I'm not sure why. I'm more concerned with Arizona State. Why? Oklahoma's defense doesn't concern me, and they have a new quarterback. While the game will be close, I think Notre Dame will have the edge in line play, the home field advantage, and the more experienced QB. Chalk up another win for ND.
Arizona State doesn't scare me, but the timing of the game does. The Irish will likely be banged up at this point, but so will Arizona State. The Sun Devils play Wisconsin, Stanford and USC before playing ND----three teams that should give them fits.
Yes, ASU is a "sexy" team, and they have athletes. Can they play smash mouth football? Notre Dame will and why they'll win this game.
Sadly, I just have a bad feeling about the USC game. After watching them last night, I probably shouldn't. But if Lane Kiffin beats Notre Dame, it will certainly be a plus for him saving his job. And while many Irish fans laugh at Kiffin's coaching, that same guy came here two years ago and out-coached the Irish staff in a head-scratching win not many expected he'd get. USC has enough firepower to pull off the upset, and for some reason, I think they do. Boy, do I hope I'm wrong.
The next two games are against Air Force and Navy. I can't imagine either team beating the Irish. Two more wins for ND.
I do worry about the Pitt game. No, the Panthers aren't better than ND. Yes, they'll have a new QB. But Pitt isn't afraid of Notre Dame. They haven't been for years and play the Irish much like Boston College used to. Still, the Irish will squeak out a win here, but it will be an ugly win.
Speaking of ugly wins, I give you BYU. Notre Dame will look sluggish, tired, and uninspired on senior day. But they'll still win.
Finally, the game I want Notre Dame to win more than any on the schedule. Why? Because it will be the most important one, besides Michigan, in my opinion. It will mean the Irish are one of the most mentally tough teams in the country. Last year they were mentally tougher than Stanford and won because of it. Can they do it again?
Sorry folks, I just don't see it this year in Palo Alto. Stanford will have an offensive line and defensive line that can go toe-to-toe with the Irish. It's at their place, night game, and the Cardinal will be out for revenge after last season.
The one caveat here is what Stanford's record might be at this point. With games against UCLA, Oregon State, Oregon, USC and Cal leading up to this, the Cardinal might be three losses in at this point and then I'm picking an 10-1 Irish.
Final record: 10-2
Notre Dame should be able to cruise to victory in its opening contest against Temple, but the next six contests will provide varying levels of difficulty. If the Irish are able to successfully navigate that stretch without slipping up - which is certainly possible - they will be strong contenders to make a return appearance in the BCS National Championship Game.
The early portion of the season, as it almost always does, hinges on contests with Michigan and Michigan State. I see Notre Dame creating some serious early momentum with a win over the Wolverines in the Big House in a primetime Saturday night game that will carry into victories over Purdue and the Spartans in successive weeks. But the schedule doesn't get any lighter with Oklahoma coming to South Bend a week later and if I had to pick a danger spot on the Irish schedule, it's here. The Sooners' new quarterback, Trevor Knight, should present the Irish defense with some problems through the air and on the ground and I think Oklahoma gets revenge for last season's loss to Notre Dame in Norman.
A trip down to Dallas for a neutral-site game against Arizona State will be more difficult than some imagine, but the Irish should get past the Sun Devils. A bye week will create buzz for the home contest with USC and for the first time since 2001, Notre Dame will beat the Trojans in South Bend. With a BCS bid on the table and a shot at a national title still not completely out of reach, Notre Dame should have plenty of motivation to dispose of Air Force, Navy, Pitt and BYU, which I expect them to do albeit with at least one nailbiter mixed in.
The season should come down to the Nov. 30th matchup in Palo Alto against Stanford. I don't expect the Cardinal to be the national-title contenders that many do, but they're a legit opponent and I think the Irish come up just short in the year's final regular season game. Despite the disappointing loss, it doesn't do much to change Notre Dame's posteason destination as it would have just missed out on a title shot even with an 11-1 record and end up heading back to Miami for the Orange Bowl, where it probably would have gone even with a victory against Stanford.
The Irish beat a talented Clemson squad in the Orange Bowl giving Notre Dame fans and media members more reasons to believe they are closing the gap athletically among the nation's best.
Final record: 11-2
How will Notre Dame's follow-up act to last year's 12-1 season go? Well, the opener against Temple will go rather smoothly. Notre Dame Stadium will spell doom for the Owls in a 35-14 Fighting Irish victory that will not be as close as the 21-point spread. The tune-up will be just what the doctor ordered when the Irish head to Michigan for week two. Last second heroics will not be in store for the Wolverines like they were two years ago and Tommy Rees will lead ND to a 27-13 victory for the program's first win at Michigan Stadium since 2005. A trip to Purdue the next week will result in a 42-6 win over a train-wrecked program that is years away from regaining relevance.
The Irish have not beaten Michigan State three straight times since an eight-game stretch that spanned from 1987-1994, but they will get there this year when they beat the Spartans 23-9 at Notre Dame Stadium. The Spartans' defense will keep them in the game for a time, but inconsistency on offense will doom MSU. Like Temple and Purdue, Oklahoma has a new starter at quarterback. Redshirt freshman Trevor Knight will be good in time, but he will prove no match for the Irish defense and OU will have no defense in a 31-16 Irish win. Arizona State will prove a big stumbling block though in the Shamrock Series game in Texas. ASU head coach Todd Graham beat the Irish as Tulsa head coach in 2010 and Notre Dame just edged his Pitt team 15-12 in 2011. Rees will struggle while harassed by Will Sutton and Carl Bradford (24.5 combined sacks last year) and the Irish will fall 17-10.
After a bye week, a bounce-back comes in a big way when USC comes to town on Oct. 19. Lane Kiffin will be halfway out the door by the time the Irish prevail 31-13 in Notre Dame's first home win over the Trojans since 2001. Neither Air Force nor Navy will be a match for Notre Dame in successive weeks. The Irish will combine to break 100 points in those two service academy games to run their record to 8-1.
Pittsburgh and BYU will pose solid challenges for the Irish. A 23-14 win over Pitt will not be as close as last year's OT scare in South Bend. A second bye week will give the Irish a chance to rest their legs in time for a good defensive BYU squad, but Notre Dame will come out on top 27-13. The regular season finale at Stanford will be another brutally physical affair. Notre Dame came out on top in overtime last year, but David Shaw will have his Cardinal up for this one with a chance to play in the BCS Championship Game up for grabs. Stanford wins 18-15 in a kick fest in Palo Alto and Notre Dame finishes the season 10-2.
Final record: 10-2
As was the case in 2012, I believe where the Irish stand at the bye week in 2013 will determine a lot in how their season ends up. There’s six games before the bye and during that time are some doozies on the schedule including Michigan, Oklahoma, and Arizona State. If they can get to the bye week at 6-0, I believe they’ll continue to run the table until they meet Stanford the last game of the season in a battle of undefeated teams vying to play in the BCS National Championship Game. If the Irish are 11-0 that means three things: Tommy Rees is playing well, they’re running the ball effectively, and the defense is up to their old tricks. I like the Irish to win against the Cardinal in a thriller and play Alabama in a rematch of last year’s title game.
Now, before the ISD message boards blow up with Mele’s 12-0 prediction let me say that’s a guess that relies on a perfect world with all the bounces going Notre Dame’s way – kinda like last season. In reality, I believe the Irish lose a game before and after the first bye week and I believe the first loss is to Oklahoma. I don’t believe Bob Stoops will allow his Sooners to lose to Notre Dame two years in a row. Call it a hunch, call it a shot in the dark, but when it’s all said and done, Oklahoma got embarrassed by the Irish on their home field last year and they would love nothing more than to return the favor.
I think they beat Michigan and Michigan State two years in a row for the first time in a long time for two reasons – Michigan no longer has Denard Robinson’s legs and Michigan State doesn’t have as much talent as Notre Dame does. Arizona State is a game I worry about because of their high paced offense and potent passing attack - that game will prove to be way closer that anyone thinks, but the good guys prevail.
The Irish enter the second half of the season at 5-1 and the country sees that Nick Saban isn’t the only coach who can do wonders with two weeks to prepare. USC gets hammered by the Irish at Notre Dame Stadium and Lane Kiffin’s fate in Los Angeles is just about sealed. They roll through Air Force, Navy, and Pitt, but BYU proves to be the ‘Arizona State’ of the second half of the season – close game, but ND comes out on top.
Brian Kelly’s boys go into the Stanford game at 10-1 with an outside chance of playing for the national championship game if they win and a few other things fall into place. They don’t win or spoil Stanford’s 11 game unbeaten streak. The Irish running game struggles with a few key injuries on the offensive line. (You really don’t think they’ll go two years in a row without a starter missing time?) The Notre Dame defense fights to the very end, but they give up a late field goal to seal the deal for the Cardinal.
Final record: 10-2
NOTE - My other prediction still stands: If Notre Dame is 6-0 at the bye week they will run the table the rest of the way and return to the BCS National Title Game against Alabama.