Dec. 29, 2011; Orlando, FL, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te

Notre Dame's Season: Under or Over 8 Wins?

One of the most interesting betting lines in college football is the under/over for win totals. For example, Alabama’s opening line is 10.5 wins. If a gambler thinks Alabama will win 11 or more games, they would take the “over”. If the Crimson Tide think they will win 10 or less, they would take the “under”. Notre Dame’s opening line is 8 wins. Will they be the “under” or the “over”? Looking at Notre Dame’s schedule there appears to be three types of games: “should wins”, “could wins” and “probably nots”. Although these are a rough sketch of the possibilities, these groups should be close to the final total.

“Should Wins”

First, Notre Dame’s schedule features four games that Notre Dame should definitely win. Kelly has struggled with games like these. In 2010, he lost to Navy and Tulsa. In 2011, the Fighting Irish dropped the opener to South Florida. This year,  these games include Navy, Purdue, Boston College and Wake Forest.

Last year, Navy finished 5-7 and are constantly outmatched physically against Notre Dame. Although they always put up a valiant effort, there should be no excuse for Notre Dame losing to the Midshipmen. There could be hiccups with Notre Dame traveling to Dublin, Ireland to play this game and breaking in a new Quarterback. Still, it seems like the Irish should never lose to the Midshipmen. Notre Dame beat the Naval Academy 43-years in a row for a reason.

In Notre Dame’s home opener, the Fighting Irish face off against Purdue. Purdue is an improving young team. They finished 7-6 last with a victory over Western Michigan in the Little Cesar’s Pizza Bowl. Notre Dame has been dominant in this series. The last loss for the Fighting Irish in this series was in 2007 when Notre Dame was an epically poor 3-9. There is no reason why Notre Dame should not continue to pound their in-state rivals. The only cause for concern would be if Notre Dame’s Quarterback uncertainty rolls into the second game.

Boston College played Notre Dame extremely tough on Senior Day last year despite being a sub par team. They lose their best player 1st rounder Luke Kuechly. Notre Dame has won 3 games in a row after losing 6 to Boston College. The Holy War is always hotly contested. However, Notre Dame should roll the Eagles in Chestnut Hill.

Pittsburgh won 6 out of 13 games last year. In a controversial move, former Head Coach Paul Graham resigned to take over at Arizona State. The Panthers then hired Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst as their Head Coach. Notre Dame should handle the Panthers at home.

Finally, Wake Forest was a 6-7 team last year that gave Notre Dame some good competition. The Demon Deacons lose their top rusher and their top receiver. However, they do return their Quarterback Tanner Price who threw for almost 3,000 yards and 20 TDs. With the Demon Decons losing a lot, the Irish should be able to handle them. This ACC team simply does not have enough fire power to beat the Fighting Irish.

“Could Wins”
This category is where the Fighting Irish will make or break their season. If Notre Dame somehow win all of these games, Notre Dame has a chance to compete for a BCS at-large birth. But, normally, a team would not be expected to win all of these games.  Five games are in this category. They are Michigan State, Michigan, Miami, Stanford and BYU.

Michigan State has lost a lot from its 2011 team. On Offense, the Spartans lost Quarterback Kurt Cousins and Wide Receiver B.J. Cunningham. On Defense, Michigan State lost top DL Jerel Worthy. They do return top tackler Max Bullough. The Spartans have been one of the most consistent teams in the past few years. The Spartans won 11 games in 2010 and 2011. With a night game at Spartan Stadium, Notre Dame will have a battle on its hands. Where will the Irish be by the third game?

Michigan is expected to be one of the top teams in 2012. Notre Dame is bringing in the Wolverines at night. Will the Irish overcome the stage fright that overcame them in the USC game last year? Notre Dame had Michigan beaten last year. Denard Robinson was been a difference maker in 2010 and 2011. The last three games between the two schools have been decided by a touchdown or less. This is without a doubt a toss up, probably coming down to the last two minutes.

Miami brings a lot of talent into Chicago. However, it also brings a lot of baggage. It is unclear which Hurricanes football team will some up. From many reports out of Miami, Al Golden tried to lay down the law but many players did not buy in. Therefore, it is hard to predict what might happen in the game. Which Miami will show up? A talent rich squad playing to its potential or a dysfunctional and unprepared group. Notre Dame probably has the advantage but could also find itself in tight game.

Stanford obviously lost the most valuable player in college football from 2011 in Quarterback Andrew Luck. The Cardinal will not replace him. It is impossible to replace a player like that. However, Shaw and his staff has been consistent in recruiting and developing players. Stanford will bring a tough and disciplined team into South Bend. Can Josh Nunes or Brett Nottingham fill the Luck void enough to move this team forward? Stanford’s season will depend on it.

Bronco Mendenhall’s Cougars have won 10 games five of the last six seasons. Their competition is not the best but winning 10 games that consistently takes good talent and coaching. Since Riley Nelson was placed into the starter role for BYU, the Cougars have really picked up. He is the heart and soul of their team. Although some people are writing off BYU as a win. This game is a huge roadblock in Notre Dame’s season.

Probably Nots”
This is the sad category for Irish fans. Notre Dame will most likely not beat USC or Oklahoma. However, they might have a chance. Like the “could wins”, if Notre Dame could pull off a victory against one of these teams, it would make their season.

Oklahoma features a large amount of talent on both side of the ball. Landry Jones is one of the top Quarterbacks in the nation. Oklahoma has lost most of its Offensive Line recently to injuries, suspensions and transfers. Norman will be a difficult place to pull out a win. However, Notre Dame will have a chance if they play a solid game.

USC is one of the favorites to win the national title. They have a tons of talent on each side of the ball. Matt Barkley is one of the best players in the country. He is probably the front runner for the Heisman. With the addition of Silas Reid, the Trojans only get better. Currently, USC has all three of their linebackers out. The depth of USC could be an issue if injuries mount at key positions. However, they are solid across the board if they stay healthy. It will be difficult for Notre Dame to win this game.

When adding up all the games, Notre Dame is probably set up to win about 7 games. Notre Dame should  win against Navy, Purdue, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest and Boston College. It seems like the Fighting Irish will defeat the Hurricanes and the Spartans. The other games may not be victories but Notre Dame has a chance to be in every game. Notre Dame’s record could be anywhere from 6-6 to 10-2.

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