Nov. 24, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly reacts as time expires after Notre Dame beat the USC Trojans 22-13 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Notre Dame enters the 2013 season coming off the best season that it has had in 25 years. Notre Dame loses key players in Manti Te’o, Tyler Eifert, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick. Notre Dame will need to replace these talents if it wants to make it Pasadena, California for the National Title.
It is impossible to replace a player like Manti Te’o who had one of the best statistical seasons at Linebacker in college football history. However, Jarrett Grace should be able to be a very good player for the Fighting Irish. Grace may not be as instinctual as Te’o but he has better size and speed for the position.
The loss of Tyler Eifert may be key. Notre Dame went to Eifert in key situations. There is no go-to player currently on the roster. DaVaris Daniels and TJ Jones are the closest things that Notre Dame has to go to players.
George Atkinson looks to fill in Wood and Riddick. The Junior Running Back has packed on the pounds in the Off-Season to better prepare him for the season. Coaches insist that he is improving but the Spring Game demonstrated some of the issues that he has had in the past are still there.
Sheldon Day will step in for Lewis-Moore. Day is a very good player already at this point of his career but he is not “Old Man Strong” like Lewis-Moore. Will he be able to hold the point of attack as well as Lewis-Moore did last year? Probably not.
Notre Dame’s team overall should be near the quality or slightly less than it was last year. Technically, the Offense should be improved. But, the Spring Game did not demonstrate that to be the case. Everett Golson should take a step forward but will continue to make mistakes. The Defense will still be solid and will benefit from a more experienced secondary. They will not give up 12.8 points per game. But anything between 13 and 20 points seems realistic.
If Notre Dame’s team is just as good this year that means they will end up in Pasadena, right? Wrong. To go undefeated, teams need a lot of luck. Notre Dame were very lucky to beat Stanford and Pittsburgh. Those easily could have been loses for last year’s team. This team being just as good also does not contemplate the possibility that another will improve.
Currently, 9-3 seems to be Notre Dame’s number. Notre Dame will fall victim to the law of averages and drop two close games like Stanford and Pittsburgh. They also will lose to a team that has made significant gains this season. The most likely candidates for losses seem to be Michigan, Oklahoma and Stanford but the Irish could win one of these games and drop one that is not expected like Arizona State.
For the record, I predicted that Notre Dame will go 7-5 last season.