Pregame six pack: Here comes the Holy War


Close your eyes and you might have missed it. After an opening to the season that can only be described as bizarre, Notre Dame has righted the ship, won seven of their last eight games, and is closing in on the end of the 2011 season.

For eight graduate students and 30 seniors, this could be the last time they’ll ever run down the steps of the locker room, slap the “Play Like A Champion Today” sign, and run out of the tunnel.

For some like Michael Floyd, it’ll be the end of the road in a record breaking career. For some like walk-on Matthew Mulvey, it’ll be the last chance to take the Irish into victory formation. Head coach Brian Kelly knows that finality carries challenges.

“There’s emotions on senior day. It’s your last game in Notre Dame Stadium,” Kelly said. “Your parents and family and friends are there. And that’s fine, but you can’t be emotional. It can’t get to you where it takes you out of how you prepare and how you play the game.”

After all, Kelly points out something very important — a message the Irish didn’t get against UConn in 2009 or Syracuse in 2008.

“There’s one senior day,” Kelly said. “And you’ll remember it because you win.”

As the Irish prepare to battle for the Ireland Trophy against Boston College, here are six fun facts, tidbits, leftovers and miscellaneous musings as the Irish and Eagles get set to play at 4:00 p.m. ET on NBC.


It may not be fully evolved, but when Brian Kelly’s offense is going… it’s going good.

If Charlie Weis is rightfully acknowledged as an offensive guru, you’d be shocked to know that even in the three seasons where Weis had an offensive that many considered prolific (2005, 2006, 2009), only the 2005 squad put up as many 500-yard days as Kelly’s team did this year.

When asked about the key to the Irish taking a big leap forward — the Irish are 33rd in the country with 436 yards a game versus 61st with 380 yards a game in 2010 — Kelly singled out the play of his quarterback Tommy Rees, and his ability to process the offense.

“I would say it starts, and we said this from the very beginning, with the quarterback,” Kelly said. “We’ll give him as much as he can handle, we’ll keep moving forward. But I think Tommy has a better grasp of the tempo we want to run. We couldn’t really push that hard at him because we were still trying to master some of the basic fundamentals. But as we continue to move forward we hope that we can continue to move a little bit quicker in our pace, which allows us to do more.”

While the highs have been high the lows have been low. Taking away the opening two weeks where the Irish gave the football game away with turnovers, the key to continued evolution is limiting the lows.

For a team that averages 436 yards a game, the Irish have played well below their average four times, twice logging less than 300 yards of offense (in the loss to USC, and surprisingly in the 31-13 victory over Michigan State). Against the Trojans, the Irish only had 41 yards on the ground. Against the Spartans, they relied on opportunistic offense and defense and a George Atkinson kickoff return.

When the going’s good, this Irish offense eats up yards in a hurry. When it’s not, things grind to a halt. As the Irish look to move on without Michael Floyd, they’ll need to get a more consistent performance out of the unit as a whole.


As the season continues, Jamoris Slaughter and Prince Shembo’s jobs continue to change.

You’d have to be trying awfully hard not to notice the impact Jamoris Slaughter has had on the defense. Entering the season neck-and-neck with Zeke Motta, Slaughter has become the most versatile defender in the secondary, sliding into the role Robert Blanton embodied last year and quickly becoming one of the Irish’s most important role players.

Lately, that’s come at the expense of Prince Shembo, as the sophomore linebacker has been losing minutes to Slaughter, who has taken over for Shembo at the Drop linebacker position when the Irish shift into a nickel or dime package.

Kelly explained the need for change.

“The game is played right now by 53 1/3 yards, in other words, the field is spread,” Kelly explained. “Because of that, you have to make substitutions based on how teams want to play. And if they want to play three, four five wide receivers, you have to make some situational substitutions and play more nickel.”

After struggling in coverage earlier in the season, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco has made the shift to Slaughter in Shembo’s spot, while Shembo continues to find a way onto the field.

“His position won’t change, but maybe he can help us in other areas if we have to go into nickel and dime personnel,” Kelly said of Shembo. “I think what you’re seeing is that we need to match up. We can’t play a 245-pound guy on a skilled wide receiver every down. We have to make those situational substitutions. So I don’t think his role changes but maybe he adds to what his role is.”

With the Irish limited at defensive end with injuries to Kapron Lewis-Moore and Ethan Johnson slowly returning to form, the season-ending injury to Steve Filer means Shembo will likely see more time as a rush end.

“He’s already had his hand on the ground,” Kelly said. “He was in nickel and was a pass rusher for us, and I think that role continues to grow, keeping him on the field if the personnel is four wide.”


Manti Te’o and Luke Kuechly in the same linebacking corps? It could’ve happened.

Saturday will feature two of the premiere linebackers in the country when Boston College’s tackling machine Luke Kuechly and Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o face off. Both guys are projected to be high draft picks. Both guys should rack up double digit tackles. And both guys could be playing for the Fighting Irish.

“Luke Kuechly would have ended the recruiting process before it ever began if Notre Dame would have offered him,” St. Xavier coach Steve Specht said in a 2010 interview with the South Bend Tribune. “But they didn’t.”

While Kuechly’s signing wasn’t as high profile as Te’o’s surprise signing with the Irish on National Signing Day in 2009, it was just as important. But looking back at that 18-man recruiting class that Charlie Weis inked, there were only three pure linebackers linked, with Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox joining Te’o in the class.

All recruiting sites ranked Fox well ahead of Kuechly — with Fox playing for one of Cleveland’s premiere private school in St. Ignatius while Kuechly played for Cincinnati’s St. Xavier.

To his credit, Kelly knew what Kuechly brought to the table, as he unsuccessfully chased the undersized linebacker to no avail when he coached the hometown Bearcats.

“We loved him,” Kelly said. “Felt like he was the kind of linebacker that has shown great instincts, loves the game, great character kid. His interests were from the very beginning, you know, towards Boston College. We knew it was going to be an uphill climb. But certainly St. X is a school that at Cincinnati we had somebody in there as much as we could.”


Don’t look know but Tyler Eifert is on the way to a record-setting season.

Any flying under the radar Tyler Eifert had been doing is long gone. The junior tight end is a Mackey Award Semifinalist, among the statistical leaders at his position in college football, and also on the way to record-breaking season under the dome.

How impressive has Eifert been this season? Consider that while Ken MacAfee still holds the individual game record for catches with nine, Eifert has already racked up three eight catch games this season, passing Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson and Anthony Fasano, three guys that turned out to have pretty good careers.

Eifert needs just three catches to match MacAfee’s single-season record of 54 catches and 208 yards to tie MacAfee’s yardage total from that historic 1977 season.

Kelly has been effusive with his praise for the work Eifert’s done.

“What I’m so pleased about is that his desire to want to be the best,” Kelly said. “You know, he’s the one who’s put in the time in the weight room. He’s the one who’s mentally got himself in a position where he fights through any injuries and comes back. He’s put himself in that position, not because he’s athletic and he can run and catch. But he’s there every week. And at the tight end position answering the bell every week says a lot about the person, and that’s probably the thing that stands out, his mental and physical development is something that he’s taken on himself.”

Eifert sits at the top of all the major statistical categories in the FBS, leading in receptions while clocking in second in receiving yards and yards per catch. Pretty amazing for a guy that wasn’t on anybody’s radar when  Kelly took over the head coaching job.


For Boston College, a youth movement has yielded ugly results.

Combine injuries with a really young roster and you get this year’s Boston College team. The Eagles looked capable of taking a step forward on paper, but Frank Spaziani‘s team only has ten fourth or fifth-year seniors on his roster, a dangerously limited number for a team hoping to compete in the ACC.

Boston College has suffered five season-ending injuries, and the loss of wide receiver Ifeanyi Momah, defensive back C.J. Jones, defensive lineman Connor Wujciak, running back Montel Harris and defensive lineman Kaleb Ramsey for significant time has robbed the Eagles out of veteran contributors.

Still, if you’re looking for a silver lining, it’s that the darkest days might be past this Boston College team, and Spaziani’s squad has won two of the last three.

“It says our players understand what the task at hand is every year,” Spaziani said. “They understand that it’s what we expect of them. They are what they are. We have no excuses for anything. Given your maximum effort is just the way it’s supposed to be. So we’re really proud that they’ve been able to do that. Having said that, they’re going to have to muster that up again here this week.”


Senior Day comes quickly for those that garner the headlines and those that never quite get there.

I’m not quite ready to talk about the end of Michael Floyd, Harrison Smith, and some of the other senior contributors careers with three games left. But with every Senior Day comes the sad realization that some careers never amounted to what many expected.

When that school is Notre Dame, sometimes those expectations are way out of whack. For a hard-luck senior like Mike Ragone, Kelly quickly dismissed the idea that he didn’t reach the expectations set for him.

“If you listen to other people’s expectations of yourself, you don’t really know who you are,” Kelly said of Ragone. “Mike gave everything he had. His career will be looked at — in terms of the way I evaluate him — he was a team guy for us and he suffered terrible injuries. We lost him for a while with a heat injury, obviously the quad injury, the knee before he got here.”

No decisions on fifth-years have been made, but you can’t help but think you’ve seen the last of some Irish seniors that had very high expectations heaped on them. And Kelly knows just how unfair that is.

“First off all expectations here at Notre Dame, I think we all know, I don’t know how you live up to them,” Kelly said. “I’m part of that. We’re in the same safe spot.”

While they never made the impact people expected, we’ll likely be seeing the last of some pretty high profile recruits on Saturday. Guys like Anthony McDonald, a linebacker that battled injuries and never could fill that gaping hole on the inside of the defense. Like David Posluszny, who struggled to get out of the shadow his All-American brother made at Penn State. Or Deion Walker, who came to South Bend over places like Florida State and Penn State, but only registered one catch in his career.

It might be difficult to look back at what might have been for those three, but they’ll have a Notre Dame degree to fall back on and countless memories that have nothing to do with football.

Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune tracked down the guys that no longer are on the Irish roster that otherwise would be playing in their final home game.

Matt Romine: After starting three games in his ND career, the Tulsa Union High product has started all 10 this season at the University of Tulsa, at right tackle.

Emeka Nwankwo: The 6-4-320-pound defensive lineman took a step down to the FCS and has 27 tackles and a sack for Western Illinois in starting all 10 games. Nwankwo played sparingly at ND, collecting five tackles in his four-year career there.

Steve Paskorz: Bounced between fullback and linebacker at ND, then bounced to West Virginia for his fifth year. He has played in just one of the Mountaineers’ 10 games – vs. Bowling Green – and has not recorded an official statistic as the team’s third-string linebacker.

Aaron Nagel was also a member of that 2007 recruiting class along with Romine, Nwankwo and Paskorz, but he transferred after his freshman season to Northwestern.

Nagel sat out the 2008 season to satisfy NCAA transfer requirements, and played in just one game in 2009. In 2010, however, he moved from linebacker to fullback (Northwestern calls it “superback”) and earned academic All-Big Ten honors.

He had one reception for six yards, a kickoff return for 14 yards and a tackle. Nagel opted to not come back for a fifth year in 2011.

That’s the beauty of college football. You can read all you want about a high school player. They might have five-stars and end up never seeing the field. They might never get a scholarship offer and turn into a first round draft pick.

We’ll see both ends of that spectrum on Saturday.

40 Preseason Predictions Revisited, part IV: Notre Dame’s 2022 ended where it was always expected to

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl - Notre Dame v South Carolina
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Notre Dame did not get there in any way expected, but the Irish season ended about where anticipated in the preseason. Psychological studies could spend hours disagreeing if it would have been better for Notre Dame to go 10-3 with its three losses coming to three top-10 teams or if a 9-4 season with a top-10 upset is better for Marcus Freeman’s program in the long-term.

But either scenario was going to end with the Irish in the Gator Bowl, a likelihood as far back as August.

To finish this recap of 40 preseason predictions

32) “A freshman defensive back will intercept a pass this season, becoming just the second freshman to do so” since 2017. Notre Dame’s defensive backfields have been far from liabilities during this resurgence since the 2016 faceplant, but they have lacked young playmakers, Kyle Hamilton aside.

Enter Benjamin Morrison and not one, not two, not three … but six interceptions in his freshman season. Unfortunately for your prognosticator, that does not equal six correct predictions. (15.5/32)

33) “The spread when the Irish visit the Trojans will be more than a field goal but less than a touchdown.” And indeed, USC was favored by four when Notre Dame visited the weekend after Thanksgiving, in what may have been the last visit the weekend after Thanksgiving. Logic says the Irish and Trojans will continue playing regularly, but USC’s joining the Big Ten in 2024 could change the timing of the meetings, and NCAA rule changes have removed Notre Dame’s want to be on the West Coast that particular week.

The Irish used to disperse their coaches from Washington to Arizona to recruit the Pacific time zone immediately after the season-ending game in California. In a literal sense, it saved those coaches 12-24 hours to not have to travel to Seattle or Phoenix from South Bend, particularly vital in a crucial recruiting window.

But now, the days after Thanksgiving are a dead period, so the coaches cannot make those visits. They flew back with the team this year.

Combine that with the Big Ten flux and perhaps Notre Dame starts heading to USC at a different point in the calendar in 2024. (16.5/33)

34) “USC will not make the College Football Playoff.”

Between this, suggesting Ohio State would make the Playoff and mistakenly thinking Clemson would, as well, these preseason predictions accurately predicted the season conclusions for two of the three biggest Irish opponents in 2022. Already suspect the 2023 version will include none of the three making the Playoff. (17.5/34)

35) Sophomore receiver Lorenzo Styles’ disappointing 2022 — 30 catches for 340 yards and one touchdown — cost him any semblance of NFL draft buzz a year before he is eligible for the draft. A breakout 2023 would obviously change that, but that was not the prediction. (17.5/35)

36) Blake Grupe fell two makes short of the predicted 80 percent field-goal rate, finishing at 73.7 percent on 14-of-19. A career 74.4 percent kicker before he arrived at Notre Dame, the Arkansas State graduate transfer’s 2022 fell in line with his career. (17.5/36)

37) Arguing Notre Dame would score fewer than 32.8 points per game in 2022 was based on the lack of depth at receiver, subsequently underscored by Styles’ struggles. Expecting the Irish to slow things down made a lower-scoring season a strong thought, though perhaps not as low as the 31.4 scored per game in 2018, the low of the last six years.

Notre Dame threaded that needle with 31.8 points per game, a number buoyed, though not shockingly, by the punt-block unit and Morrison’s contributions. (18.5/37)

38) The Irish had gone 54-10 in Brian Kelly’s final five years in South Bend, winning at least 10 games each year. Predicting a sixth season of double-digit wins was a mistake largely thanks to Audric Estimé’s fumble in the fourth quarter against Stanford. (18.5/38)

39) This final stretch of predictions focused on hitting a few tight windows. The spread against USC, the exact scoring average and … where Notre Dame would play in a bowl game.

“Notre Dame will play in Florida before New Year’s.”

As complicated as bowl scenarios get during the season and then even the week of selections with the Holiday Bowl in San Diego reportedly campaigning hard for the Irish, sticking with initial expectations would have been a smart travel-planning strategy. (19.5/39)



40 Preseason Predictions Revisited, part I: Notre Dame’s rushing offense hid many early struggles
Part II: Notre Dame’s upset losses should have been expected from a first-year head coach
Part III: Notre Dame’s November far from the expected disappointment

40 Preseason Predictions Revisited, part III: Notre Dame’s November far from the expected disappointment

Clemson v Notre Dame
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Recapping these preseason predictions bit by bit has emphasized how much of a see-saw Notre Dame’s 2022 was. They expected decent Irish success at Ohio State to open the season, which was realized. They then plainly assumed Notre Dame would continue to wallop overmatched opponents as Brian Kelly made the default.

Instead, Marcus Freeman stubbed his toe twice as first-year head coaches are wont to do, rendering that stretch of predictions largely flawed.

Now, the predictions tilt into early November, expecting little from the Irish. Of course, that was exactly when Freeman delivered the defining moment of his debut campaign.

21) “Notre Dame will top last year’s 41 sacks, which was a Kelly Era high. The Ademilola twins, junior defensive end Rylie Mills and at least one linebacker will each make at least three sacks.”

The first part of that fell inarguably short, 38 clearly less than 41. But the next sentence held more merit. Defensive end Justin Ademiloa and twin brother tackle Jayson Ademilola each had three sacks while Mills added 3.5. No linebacker reached three unless willing to still count Jordan Botelho as a linebacker with his 4.5 sacks. Given two of those came in the Gator Bowl when Botelho was clearly a defensive end, that would be generous grading. Instead, this entire prediction should be considered wrong, alas. (12/21)

22) Did this space continue publishing as planned after the Minnesota Timberwolves home opener? The running content calendar says a “Leftovers & Links” column ran on Oct. 20, the day after. Take the wins where you can find them, especially as a Timberwolves fan. (13/22)

23) The Irish had won 25 straight regular-season games against ACC opponents entering the season. Predicting that would reach 27 meant predicting Notre Dame would beat North Carolina and Syracuse. Check and check. (14/23)

24) That did not push the Irish into the top 10 of the initial College Football Playoff rankings, as predicted, thanks to the mishaps against Marshall and Stanford. (14/24)

25) And here comes a stretch of predictions predicated in pessimism, focused on how Notre Dame would fare against Clemson. The Irish had won 16 straight games in November entering the 2022 season. Suggesting that would end at 16 was suggesting Notre Dame would lose to Clemson on the first weekend of November.

Rather, that was the win in Freeman’s first season that will be long remembered. (14/25)

26) That expected loss was based on Clemson’s defensive front holding Notre Dame’s ground game in check. There was no expectation the Irish would dominate there with 264 rushing yards on 46 carries after adjusting for a single one-yard sack. Logan Diggs ran for 114 yards on 17 carries while Audric Estimé took 18 rushes for 104 yards. (14/26)

27) That loss did not knock Clemson out of the College Football Playoff. The Tigers messing around and finding out against South Carolina did that. But regardless, predicting Clemson would return to the Playoff was ill-fated. (14/27)

28) Notre Dame was 30-1 in its last 31 home games entering the season. Predicting that would reach 35-2 in step with suggesting the Irish would lose to the Tigers was wrong in all sorts of ways, most notably in that the stretch is now 34-3 after Notre Dame went just 4-2 at home last season. Again, Marshall and Stanford. (14/28)

29) Boston College receiver Zay Flowers did not have the predicted 40-yard catch on Senior Day at Notre Dame Stadium. He had a long of 39 yards on a snow-covered field playing with a backup quarterback.

The spirit of the prognostication was valid, but alas. (14/29)

30) Former Irish tight end George Takacs did not catch a touchdown in his return with the Eagles. No one did. (14/30)

31) And former Notre Dame quarterback Phil Jurkovec did not have a “perfectly adequate day in his return to South Bend, not dramatic enough in any regard to confirm or deny anyone’s expectations for him that day.”

Jurkovec did not play at all, so let’s call this wager a push. He did, however, make some headlines from the sideline.

There is a strong chance this prediction is rerun in its entirety in 2023 with Jurkovec and Pittsburgh heading to South Bend on Oct. 28. (14.5/31)

Leftovers & Links: Ohio State, Clemson & Pittsburgh hurt most by early NFL draft entrants among Notre Dame’s opponents

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 03 Notre Dame at Ohio State
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The first two notable dates of college football’s offseason passed last week, the deadline for players to enter the transfer portal before the spring semester and the deadline to enter the NFL draft. The former hardly warranted much notice at Notre Dame, only three players entering the portal after the 2022 season. While plenty did transfer from other programs, a mid-May look at that movement may better serve Irish purposes, as plenty of names will eventually leave Notre Dame.

The NFL deadline has no second passing. Players are either headed toward the NFL draft by now or they are not.

The Irish lost five players to early entry to the NFL, though two of those instances were offensive lineman Jarrett Patterson and defensive end Justin Ademilola, both of whom would have been returning for sixth collegiate seasons in 2023. So in a more genuine sense, Notre Dame lost only three players early to the NFL draft: tight end Michael Mayer, defensive end Isaiah Foskey and safety Brandon Joseph.

All five would have started for the Irish next season, obviously. But at most, Ademilola’s and Joseph’s declarations were surprises, and even those were only mild at most.

College football will slowly churn back toward college careers following “normal” timelines and more tenable roster management the further it gets from the universal pandemic eligibility waiver from 2020. That will not take all the way until the 2025 season. Coaches are already leaning toward it.

While Notre Dame would have gladly welcomed back Patterson and/or Ademilola, it also knew two realities.

1) Patterson should be a second- or third-round draft pick who could have gone to the NFL a year ago. His time is now.
2) A year of Ademilola’s production would come at the expense of the development of younger players that may already be on the verge, somewhat deflating the value of his return.

In a parallel way, coaching staffs fall into two categories.

1) Either they are doing well and trust they can recruit better players than any draft debaters now. Leaning into continued successful recruiting lengthens the timeline these coaches expect to continue to succeed.
2) Or they are failing and soon fired. A new coach would rather bring in new players, “his players,” to reboot the program.

In both scenarios, fewer and fewer sixth-year players will be seen around college football long before the 2025 season rules them out entirely.

All of that is to say, when discussing entrants into the NFL draft, it is more and more accurate to focus on the juniors (like Mayer) and the seniors (Foskey, Joseph) rather than the half-decade veterans. Those losses from Notre Dame’s 2023 opponents, in order of most severe to least …

Ohio State: Losing quarterback C.J. Stroud would top this list no matter who else was on it. Stroud alone would have made the Buckeyes the title favorites next season. Receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba also jumped to the NFL, though his final collegiate season was effectively nullified when a Joseph tackle in the season opener injured Smith-Njigba’s hamstring to an extent he never genuinely returned in 2022.

Center Luke Wypler and offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. headed to the next level, as well, along with defensive tackle Dawand Jones and defensive back Ronnie Hickman.

But those latter losses are anticipated at elite programs. Ohio State has recruited to replace most of these players. The Buckeyes barely missed Smith-Njigba in 2022, and he may be the best receiver in the draft. Stroud, however, is a loss that will throw the early part of Ohio State’s 2023 into some question.

Clemson: Similarly, the Tigers losing three defensive linemen in Myles Murphy, Bryan Bresee and K.J. Henry along with linebacker Trenton Simpson may be too much to overcome in stride. As Clemson has so terribly struggled — throw some sarcasm on that phrasing — to just 10 and 11 wins the last two season, it has leaned on its defensive front.

The Tigers gave up only 102.7 rushing yards per game in 2022, No. 13 in the country, and 20.9 points per game, No. 22 in the country. A year ago, Clemson ranked No. 7 and No. 2 in the respective categories.

Replacing 29.5 tackles for loss from the 2022 season including 16 sacks will be a difficult task. Perhaps “terribly struggled” will no longer warrant sarcasm.

Pittsburgh: Not many programs saw two All-Americans jump to the NFL, but the Panthers did in running back Israel Abanikanda (1,431 yards on 5.99 yards per carry with 20 rushing touchdowns) and defensive lineman Calijah Kancey (14 tackles for loss with 7 sacks in 11 games). Safety Brandon Hill also provided Pittsburgh’s defense some versatility.

USC: The Trojans also lost two All-Americans to the NFL — which, come to think of it, Notre Dame did, as well, in Mayer and Foskey — in receiver Jordan Addison and defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu. To be more clear, Addison was not a 2022 All-American, but one at Pittsburgh back in 2021. Injuries slowed him a touch in 2022, but overall, his talent is All-American in caliber.

Stanford: The Cardinal’s talent drain this offseason will warrant a deep dive. It is one to behold. The first line on it is quarterback Tanner McKee heading to the NFL with some draftniks thinking he should be an early-round pick.

When Stanford upset Notre Dame in October, McKee led the way with 288 yards on an impressive 26-of-38 completion rate. Losing him will drastically change the Cardinal ceiling in 2023, which is saying something considering how low that ceiling already was.

Central Michigan: Running back Lew Nicholls III did not have the statistical profile of someone who should head to the NFL already, with all of 616 rushing yards and six touchdowns in 2022, but look back to 2021 and his choice makes more sense. He ran for 1,848 yards and 16 touchdowns with another 338 receiving yards and two touchdowns through the air.

Navy, Tennessee State, North Carolina State, Duke, Louisville and Wake Forest did not lose players to any early NFL decisions.

If this list seems abbreviated, that’s because it is throughout college football. Name, image and likeness rights have made it more enticing for players to return to school Reportedly, fewer players entered this draft early than at any time in the last decade.

To think, so many people insisted NIL rights would ruin college football. Here is hard evidence it has upgraded the talent in the sport.

Trio of early-enrolling Notre Dame receivers most likely of dozen arrivals to impact 2023
40 Preseason Predictions Revisited, part I: ND’s rushing offense hid many early struggles
40 Preseason Predictions Revisited, part II: Upset losses should have been expected from a first-year head coach

2023 NFL Draft Big Board: PFF’s top 100 prospects
‘Everything’s on fire’: NIL collectives are the latest patchwork solution for college athlete pay
Numbers show NIL benefits college football
Has legalized betting led to more hurtful social media actions? Some admins think so.
Best college football games of 2022 season
Blazers’ Justise Winslow’s ‘giant, little steps’ out of the darkness

40 Preseason Predictions Revisited, part II: Notre Dame’s upset losses should have been expected from a first-year head coach

Marshall v Notre Dame
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To continue a final look back at Notre Dame’s 2022 season through the lens of preseason predictions and the expectations they framed …

11) The most underappreciated part of the Irish resurgence since 2017 and thus Brian Kelly’s final years coaching in South Bend was that Notre Dame won 42 straight games against unranked opponents, the longest streak in the country. It was so taken for granted, this prediction thought the Irish would run that to 50 games in 2023.

Instead, Marcus Freeman lost his very first game against an unranked opponent. (8 correct predictions out of 11.)

12) A few predictions always delve out of college football, for variety’s sake. Maybe that should be forgotten moving forward, considering the Packers neither beat the Vikings to open the season nor won the NFC North. To make matters even worse for this scribe of a lapsed Packers fan, they also were not bad enough to draft a good quarterback in 2023. (8 out of 12.)

13) North Carolina leaned on dynamic receiver Josh Downs to prodigious amounts in 2021. An early-season injury slowed him this year, thus ruining any chance of him having “the most catches in a game against the Irish this season, though not the most yards.”

He caught five passes for 32 yards.

Ohio State receiver Emeka Egbuka set the catches mark with nine for 90 yards to open the season, while BYU’s Kody Epps caught four passes for 100 yards, the season high in yardage against Notre Dame. (8/13)

14) Notre Dame played a multiple-look defense this season, a layup of a prediction given the linebacker depth and versatility led by Jack Kiser and (eventually injured) Bo Bauer. That was emphasized at USC when the Irish leaned into a 3-3-5 look without both cornerback Cam Hart and nickel back Tariq Bracy. Kiser’s speed became the defense’s best chance.

It was not enough, but it was a valiant effort, and one to keep in mind in 2023. (9/14)

15) “The math says at least one Irish player will be ejected for targeting in 2022.”

Enter JD Bertrand, twice. (10/15)

16) “Notre Dame will beat BYU in Las Vegas.”

Despite a lackluster second-half, check.

“… This space will miss at least one day of publishing the following week. Who can say why.”

Let’s check the running content calendar. For Tuesday, Oct. 11, it reads, “Vegas won this round.” Sometimes it is best to foresee your own personal failures. (11/16)

17) Marcus Freeman’s recruiting emphasis never waned, underscored by the last two years of recruiting topping anything the Irish have ever done. (12/17)

18) The only area in which Michael Mayer fell short in his Notre Dame career was of this prediction, one saying he would casually break two of his own three Irish single-season records. To do so, he needed to exceed 71 catches, 840 receiving yards and/or seven touchdowns.

The surefire first-round draft pick merely caught 67 passes for 809 yards and nine scores.

Would he have reached all three metrics if he played in the Gator Bowl? Almost assuredly. But then again, he played in only 12 games in 2021, too. The prediction was wrong, regardless. (12/18)

19) Another thought about an individual record, defensive end Isaiah Foskey did not exceed Justin Tuck’s record of 13.5 sacks in a season. He did take down the quarterback 11 times, reaching double digits for a second consecutive season while setting the Notre Dame career mark. (12/19)

20) Similar to prediction No. 11, an underappreciated part of Kelly’s final five years in South Bend were that the Irish won 39 straight games when favored at kickoff, covering all of the 2018-21 seasons.

Both to suggest that would continue and to guess how many times Notre Dame would be favored in 2022, arguing that streak would reach 48 was right in that the Irish were favored in nine of 13 games. They just happened to lose the first of those (and then again against Stanford, the fourth time they would be favored this season).

Such blunders should have been expected from a first-year head coach. Those missteps seem to catch just about every such rookie. But forgetting or overlooking that led to dashed expectations in 2022. (12/20)