Notre Dame Football Predictions: Texas vs. Notre Dame


The weekend we’ve all been waiting for is finally upon us, as Notre Dame will open its 2015 football season against the Texas Longhorns on Saturday night. Two of the most storied and popular college football programs in the country will be squaring off with very different expectations and motivations at 7:30 PM. 

The Longhorns are coming off of a 6-7 season, one peppered with various disappointing losses, a few surprisingly competitive performances, and plenty of cautiously optimistic hope that first-year coach Charlie Strong is the man meant to rebuild this program from the depths it’s fallen to in recent years.

Still a year or two away from being considered contenders in the Big 12, Texas is looking to bolster the confidence of a very young team and give the rebuild a jump-start with a big road win against a top-15 non-conference opponent.

The Fighting Irish, on the other hand, come into 2015 with a great deal of hype and College Football Playoff aspirations, returning nearly every starter from last year’s 8-5 team. That 2014 team experienced a tumultuous season, rising as high as 5th in the AP Top 25, dealing with a rash of devastating injuries, losing five of its last six regular season games, and ultimately besting SEC perennial power LSU (albeit in a down year compared to other recent LSU squads) in the Music City Bowl.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Jaylon Smith (9) celebrates after Notre Dame defeated the Purdue Boilermakers 30-14 at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2014. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame enters the season ranked 11th in both the AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll, and with NFL-caliber talent in the form of OT Ronnie Stanley, OLB Jaylon Smith, and CB KeiVarae Russell, among others, they will look to start their playoff campaign with a convincing win over a premier Big 12 program.

The youth and inexperience of Texas will be a major concern for the Longhorns, as they plan on starting four true freshmen and will have ten first-time starters overall.

This inexperience will be key for the Irish defense especially, as two of Texas’ true freshman starters will be on the offensive line. Starting defensive linemen Sheldon Day, Isaac Rochell, Romeo Okwara, and Daniel Cage should be able to wreak some havoc against such a green offensive front, and hopefully Jaylon Smith and Co. will put some pressure on QB Tyrone Swoopes, who was an inconsistent 2014 starter, throwing for 13 TD and 11 INT. Stopping senior RB Jonathan Gray (637 yards, 7 TD in 2014) will be a major goal for the Irish defense and could hold the key to an ND victory. If Texas wants to stay in this game, Swoopes will need to make some plays with his arm to supplement Gray’s rushing attack.

Notre Dame’s offense should not have too much trouble moving the ball against Texas’ defense considering the offensive line’s combination of talent and experience, along with a bevy of dangerous skill players like Will Fuller (1,094 receiving yards, 15 TD in 2014), Corey Robinson (539 receiving yards, 5 TD), and Tarean Folston (889 rushing yards, 6 TD). The key will be QB Malik Zaire’s effectiveness in his first regular season start, as he needs to run the read option effectively while also doing enough with his arm to keep the defense honest.

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Texas has plenty of talent, so I see them hanging around with the Irish as Zaire takes a few drives to really get into a groove (and shake off the nerves of beginning the Zaire Era under the lights against Texas). However, as the game wears on, the potency of ND’s offense will be too much for a Texas defense that will have no answer for the number of weapons thrown at it.

Meanwhile, the Texas offense will struggle passing the ball with Swoopes attempting to throw to receivers blanketed by Russell and fellow cornerback Cole Luke. Look for multiple turnovers created by an Irish defense hungry to prove themselves after a dismal finish to last season, and for Texas’ offense to just not have enough firepower to keep up with Notre Dame as they pull away in the second half.

Editor Andrew HallNotre Dame 34, Texas 21
Staff Writer Manuel De JesusNotre Dame 45, Texas 17
Staff Writer Chase EyrichNotre Dame 24, Texas 14
Staff Writer Chris ClarkeNotre Dame 38, Texas 17
Staff Writer Pat SullivanNotre Dame 34, Texas 20
Staff Writer Nick CombsNotre Dame 31, Texas 21

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