Inside the Irish

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Friday at 4: 40 Predictions

The Notre Dame class of 2021 moved onto campus today. Roommates were met. Lofts were modulated. Mothers cried. These things are as inevitable as summer equaling visits to brewery rooftops, Christmas bringing familial tension, and someone being upset about where the Irish land (or don’t land) in Monday’s Associated Press top-25 release.

Years ago, I managed to move in two days earlier than most freshmen. International students are afforded that luxury. No, I am not from abroad. As has been discussed, this scribe is a Wisconsin native. Rather, my roommate was from Canada, though I will always take great joy in reminding him my green-and-gold hometown is actually farther north by latitude than his Maple Leaf roots.

Two weeks after moving in, I wrote my first football article for The Observer, Notre Dame’s student newspaper. It was actually purposed for a long-since defunct blog. It included references to “Rudy,” Sly Stallone and initial, but momentary, college friendships. Pretty standard fare, in all of reality, though the ignorance of the AP Stylebook and improper usage of only makes its author cringe in rereading.

That roommate did not notice those errors. Rather, his review was simple and has stuck with me nearly a decade later.

“You shouldn’t have started with ‘I think.’ It made your point weaker.”

He was, and is, right. With all due respect to that fact, arbitrary, varied and debatable predictions may necessitate a weaker stance. Thus, I think …

1) The completed Campus Crossroads project will receive largely positive reviews.

2) The completed Campus Crossroads project will be largely an afterthought by season’s end.

3) The inevitable videos looking back on the 1977 national championship team will be a worthwhile usage of the video board above the south end zone, and a nice way to ease Irish fans into appreciating the board’s applicability.

4) Those fans will initially balk at whatever versions of pre- and post-game shows featured on the video board.

5) Before long, those shows will simply be considered contributing background noise.

6) The Irish host USC the evening of Oct. 21, the same night as game six of the National League Championship Series. To make the decision of which to attend a bit easier for Notre Dame Cubs fans living in Chicago, the Cubs will be on the road.

7) North Carolina State visits Notre Dame on Oct. 28, the same night as game four of the World Series. Though the Cubs will be at home that evening, those aforementioned fans will not have to choose between their two teams. Only one will be playing.

Equanimeous St. Brown (Getty Images)

8) At least one junior of running back Josh Adams, receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and tight end Alizé Mack will off-handedly declare an intention to return for his senior year only halfway through the 2017 season. While fans will take that remark to be an ironclad promise, it will be nothing more than a 21-year-old not knowing how to properly answer an awkward question.

9) Senior left guard Quenton Nelson will not make that mistake, but will skirt the query when inevitably posed.

10) The temperature in Miami in November will be matched by the scoreboard’s combined total.

11) For the third consecutive season, DeShone Kizer will throw more touchdowns than Malik Zaire will. This may seem obvious given Kizer will enjoy a 16-game season compared to Zaire’s likely 13 or 14, but Zaire seems more likely to start the season than Kizer will, at which point those schedules could quickly become equal in length.

12) For that matter, Kizer will also account for more turnovers than Zaire will. Call it a symptom of facing NFL defenses each week.

13) Sophomore receiver Chase Claypool will again lead the Irish in special teams tackles.

14) Claypool will have more receptions than tackles this season, unlike last year when he made 11 tackles and had only five catches for 81 yards.

15) Junior kicker Justin Yoon will set the Notre Dame record for career field goal percentage.

16) Either Yoon or some other aspect of coordinator Brian Polian’s special teams units will win the Irish at least one game.

17) The player with the second-most catches in 2017 will be fifth-year senior and Arizona State graduate transfer Cam Smith. A month ago this would have been an absurd prediction, but his institutional knowledge of offensive coordinator Chip Long’s system should provide him a productive September, especially compared to the rest of the targets still adjusting to the up-tempo system.

18) Smith will not have the second-most receiving yards. That will be Mack.

19) Obviously, the leading receiver will be St. Brown, in yards, catches and touchdowns.

20) Sophomore running back Tony Jones will finish with the second-most rushing yards on the team, behind only Adams.

21) Sticking to the math done in his 99-to-2 entry, Adams will rush for 1,224 yards. (Anything plus/minus 50 yards of that will be claimed as a correct prediction.)

22) Junior running back Dexter Williams will have a productive season. By no measure will it be considered a disappointment. Yet, he will rush for only the fourth-most yardage in 2017.

Brandon Wimbush (Getty Images)

23) A disclaimer may be needed to claim No. 22 as accurate come season’s end: In these parts, quarterback’s rushing statistics do not include yards lost to sacks. Yes, this is predicting junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush will gain more yards on the ground than Williams this season.

24) Notre Dame’s offense will score between 34.9 and 36.4 points per game.

25) Senior linebacker Nyles Morgan will make the most tackles.

26) Senior rover Drue Tranquill will make more “big” plays than Morgan while finishing second in tackles. Morgan will simply be methodical in racking up 10-12 tackles on a seemingly-weekly basis.

27) The defense will sack the opposing quarterback 27 times. Anything in the 25-29 range will allow for this to be considered accurate, if not precise.

28) A year after forcing only 14 turnovers, that number will rise just like the sacks stat. Let’s again project 27, with a plus/minus cushion of two for a fighting chance’s sake.

29) The defense will not return to the 2013 level of allowing only 22.4 points per game, but it will fare closer to than last year’s average of 27.8 points. In 2016’s final seven games, the Irish allowed 23.9 points per game. Using that mark, let’s predict a 2017 season-long metric of 23.6 to 25.1.

30) Notre Dame will hit the over on a win total over/under mark of 8.5.

31) The Irish will finish the regular season with a win at Stanford.

32) In addition to the already-discussed under win total wagers of South Carolina (under 5), Georgia Tech (under 6), Wake Forest (under 5.5) and Stanford (under 9), let’s add LSU failing to win nine games.

33) Let’s also add North Carolina State exceeding 7.5 wins to the previous list of over bets: Ohio State (over 10.5), Rutgers (over 3), Arizona (over 4.5) and Oregon (over 7.5).

34) Notre Dame will first reach the top 25 after beating Georgia in week two. This should be true in both the coaches and AP polls, but if either bestows the honor upon the Irish, this prediction will be considered valid. Reminder: Those polls are meaningless and inconsequential, though conversational fodder, nonetheless.

35) Four Notre Dame opponents will be ranked at the end of the year.

36) They will not be the same four as are ranked in the coaches poll now (USC, Stanford, Georgia, Miami [FL]).

37) The Irish will remain in the top 25 for the remainder of the season.

38) They will finish the regular season somewhere between No. 13 and No. 18 in the polls, at this point considering the College Football Playoff selection committees rankings, as well. That ceiling is of note, as it would be one spot outside of reaching a Playoff-eligible bowl.

39) Notre Dame will play a bowl game in Orlando, Fla., namely either the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1 or the Camping World Bowl on Dec. 28. The difference between the two will actually come down to how the Big Ten’s top-tier compares to the SEC’s. If confident it will be the better half of that comparison, then book your flights around New Year’s Day.

40) At least 15 of these predictions will be wrong. If that number is actually only 14, then call this the Prognosticator’s Paradox.