Mailbag madness: Questions, questions and (longer) questions

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Hope everybody had a spooky night and is ready for a hopefully less frightening evening against Navy.

Let’s get to your questions. Or should I say manifestos.

I stayed away from some repeats and also Heisman’d the post comparing turnovers between the Irish’s last two quarterbacks. At this point, I’m not walking back into the mistakes of the 2013 season, not with so many potential big things ahead for this team.

Here we go…

 

martyhealy: My question is, How much politicking behind the scenes is likely with the voting members to gang up on the SEC? In other words if a Pac 12, Big 10, or Big 12 team has no chance due to their top record with two losses they get a member or members to vote for their conference if that member(s) conference team has a bad 11-2 record or worse.

These aren’t electoral voters. The selection committee was purposely filled with some of the most ethical people surrounding the world of college football. So I think it’s a little bit silly to think that party lines are being drawn and backroom wheeling and dealing is already underway, especially with a month left in the season.

And remember, it’s not like the old system didn’t have this happening. It wasn’t that long ago where Mac Brown took to ESPN’s air waves during halftime of November games to push for the Longhorns to get their shot. And he was hardly alone.

There are a million questions about the playoff and ND’s spot in it. But let the process play out. Taking this poll as anything but a very fluid starting place is kind of meaningless.

 

blackirish23: In the BCS era, the AP and Coaches polls actually played a significant role (2/3) of the BCS poll. Now that we have an official playoff committee whose sole job is to rank the teams after week 7 or 8 without giving any consideration to the Coaches and AP polls, is it about time we did away with both those polls?

I’d love to see the polls abolished. Or at least have people openly acknowledge that the polls are essentially meaningless, especially considering that they don’t play a factor into anything, and likely get even less attention from pollster and coaches now.

Worth pointing out. B/R asked me to be a voter in their weekly exercise. I thought it’d be fun. But I absolutely HATE voting, and find myself moving the puzzle pieces around until I get frustrated and say, “this looks about right.”

 

ndoneill: Does Notre Dame have enough potential quality wins left on its schedule to make the playoff, even with winning out? It seems the committee is judging between one-loss teams based on “best win,” not “best loss.” Assuming ND wins out, will a win against (currently) #25 Louisville be enough to set them apart if the other one-loss teams currently ranked ahead also win out?

They certainly are judging it that way based on October results. But you didn’t see any two-loss teams up there, did you? So when all things are created equal, good wins probably should overrule good losses.

But again…. We’ve just gotta relax and let things play out. Notre Dame looked on the outside looking in back in 2012 before Oregon and Kansas State spit the bit. Six teams in front of the Irish play each other. A bunch of others are going to lose, too, and some in pretty shocking fashion.

Embrace the chaos and just enjoy the ride.

 

irishking: do you seriously believe that ND will win out? Do tell.

Why not? I don’t think Brian Kelly’s coached a team that wasn’t better in November than it was in September/October, and that should be the case with this group as long as no major injuries come along.

Should they win all the games? If they play well. Will they play well? I’d think so.

I tend to think tonight’s game is a big piece of the puzzle, and getting out of there without expending too much energy — and losing too many guys to injury — is critically important.

But you’re also looking at a guy that spends all August trying to figure out how ND can run the table every season, and practically talked himself into it again this year. (A horribly depressing habit until the past few years.)

 

irishmob89: Keith. Does Brian VanGorder’s aggressive defense match up better with Navy than Bob Diaco’s “bend but don’t defecate in your pants” defense? More specifically, does the Irish have the speed to prevent Navy’s backs from hurting Notre Dame on the edges?

Can I tell you tomorrow?

(My hunch? Navy will score some points, Keenan Reynolds is too good, and finally healthy. But ND will get their share of stops.)

 

goirishgo: Do you believe this lighter, faster ND defense matches up better against Navy’s option than in previous years?

I do. I like the idea of Jaylon Smith and Joe Schmidt chasing the option better than Carlo Calabrese and Jarrett Grace.

 

newmexicoirish: Keith, I will try again. I asked about our coaching staff in the last mailbag and for whatever reasons you elected not to answer my question. Certainly your prerogative, but I’ll give it another shot!

As someone who is close to the program, do you believe the fiasco with the frozen five may have CBK taking a serious look at the NFL should the later show an interest? Lots of articles written in which the authors felt Coach Kelly was put in a very difficult and uncomfortable position by the university as front man for this whole mess, without providing him any information with which to answer some very pointed questions. Being rather savvy politically, I’m wondering if he is playing things close to the vest while seething behind the scenes?

I was one of the people loudly saying that Kelly was put in a brutal position. And I’m also someone who wouldn’t begrudge anybody in the world from taking a new job if the new position was paying you millions of dollars and at the height of your profession.

Who knows if this is a dealbreaker for BK? I don’t think it is, just because this has always been one of the cut-and-dry things that come with Notre Dame. Get in trouble/do something wrong in the classroom? It’s not in the coach’s hands anymore.

The university’s treatment of Michael Floyd after his DUI arrest shows that Notre Dame has made changes to their draconian student-life discipline process and that ultimately they trusted Kelly to handle things correctly. But don’t expect things to budge from an Honor Code perspective. Just look at the fiasco at North Carolina, which tarnishes a university and diploma about as much as you can.

Don’t expect any coach to let a school know in advance when they’re going to jump to the NFL. That’s why these guys have agents. But I don’t see Kelly going anywhere imminently. He’s built too good of a program to let someone else take this 2-3 year run.

 

ndlv: If I remember correctly, one of the Weis – Clausen games against Navy (2009?) was a disaster because of turnovers. To cut down on the possibility of interceptions (which can kill ND against Navy, as they limit the # of offensive possessions), is this the week when Notre Dame brings back some old school run-between-the-tackles football? Dust off the fullbacks (are there any on the roster?) and the blocking tight ends, then a steady diet of Folston running through tackles!

You asked this question before the Pregame Six Pack, but Kelly’s leaned heavily on the running game against Navy, with Tommy Rees only throwing 20 times last year. The Irish ran 46 times the last time Everett Golson faced the Midshipmen, and I expect the ground game to get churning, too.

If you want to slam your head into a table a few dozen times, go back and look at that 2009 football game. Notre Dame didn’t punt once. Jimmy Clausen threw for 450+ yards. Between the zillion red zone mistakes and the critical safety they gave up, the Irish literally invented a way to lose that football game.

 

tusconfan: Keith, did you know Willingham? If so what would you say his attitude towards ND is vis a vis his role on the committee?

I met Ty Willingham once. I was a student sitting in the bleachers at Eck Stadium and he came in after riding his bike around campus, just months after he was hired. So I don’t know him, nor could I speak towards his attitude.

But I think any worries that Ty or Condi or Pat Haden or X or Y or Z is going to screw Notre Dame makes people sound silly. Keep winning. Solves a lot of problems.

 

jerseyshorefannd1: ND changed to field turf and the world didn’t end. Actually, I think most would agree that it has been a real positive. Given that success, are there any other changes on the horizon that are being seriously discussed within the program (not just specifically the addition of a jumbotron)?

I might be the only one, but I think the remodel is going to be awesome. It will trap some of the noise in the stadium and give the university a chance to make some adjustments to the current set-up. (For instance, people’s butts have gotten a lot bigger over the past 20-30 years.)

One thing that I really think will help (other than a video board, which I’m also 100% in favor of) is the ability to have an open air press box. You want to know why media and reporters always talk about the crowd being relatively quiet at Notre Dame Stadium? It’s because you can’t hear anything from the press box. It’s sealed tight with seemingly sound-proof glass.

Not that it doesn’t come in handy on a chilly Saturday, but if your job is to capture the atmosphere at the stadium, you can do it better watching the NBC broadcast than up in the box.

 

dudeacow: We’re number 1 in overall GSR again. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea why it’s so good to have a high graduation success rate. It seems to me that that means it’s really easy to graduate from the school. Can you explain why this is an important metric?

Seems to me that you might want to rethink that logic. Are you serious? Why is it good to have a high graduation rate? I don’t know, so the kids playing college football actually graduate from college.

Add that to the other ranking tools that list Notre Dame regularly among the top universities in the country and you can start to understand why the athletic department and university rightfully boast about the accomplishment.

 

deadman3020: So what do you think, % wise, that E. Golsen returns next year?

99 percent. (And it’s G-O-L-S-O-N.)

 

oldestguard: How soon will this playoff system be expanded to 8 teams?

Billion dollar question. The current TV deal states that this stay at four teams, but you’ve got to think the pressure to expand will be immense. A few months back BK threw his hat in the 8-team ring, and I can’t blame any coach for wanting it a little bit bigger.

Remember all those worries that a playoff would ruin the regular season? Sure doesn’t seem like it now.

 

wisner74: With the Navy game next, Eilar Hardy comes to mind because of his perhaps game-saving play late in the 4th quarter of last year’s game. Since he’s now back at practice, will he be on the field at all this season? The Irish could certainly use him with all of the injuries at safety. Also, if he does have a two semester suspension in front of him, is there any chance at all he’ll actually sit it out at ND and play his last year in the ’16 season, or is he likely to transfer and play somewhere else in ’15?

Kelly referenced some things that still needed to happen before Hardy was eligible to return. I think that’s a university matter, so this isn’t in BK’s hands. I’ve never reported that Hardy was gone or had a two-semester suspension pending. But I have no reason to think that what Pete Sampson is saying is incorrect, and I’d honestly be shocked if it wasn’t.

Having Hardy back on the practice field will be helpful. Having him in the secondary would be even better, but I tend to think that’s a pipedream.

It’s too bad that Hardy’s career wasn’t a bigger success. Between the knee injury, the self-inflicted blunders (he was suspended for two different games last season, one after he had found success at safety) even before this current mess.

I’ve got a feeling you’ll be seeing him start for Chuck Martin next season at safety.

 

NDunbound:

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to deal with trolls and other problem posters. I believe the best thing to do is ignore them. They feed off attention, good or bad. Ignore them, and they’ll go away. But I noticed that even you give them attention, so maybe you know something I don’t.

I don’t like it when sites treat posters like kindergartners, even when some deserve to be treated as such. But I have to admit your recent threat has had a positive effect. We’ll see how long that lasts.
I just hate to see you wasting your time policing the comments when you should be researching and writing.

If your recent guidelines aren’t followed, I implore everyone to simply ignore the idiots. I know it’s not easy, but I think it’s worth a shot. What are your thoughts on this, Keith?

I’m answering this question because I’m trying to fight the good fight with commenters. And credit to some people for cleaning up their act. I implemented those “guidelines” (thanks for the help, Mom) to try and add some baseline expectations to the free-for-all.

But honestly people, I don’t have time to go through and be the arbiter of taste and appropriateness down below. Self-govern. Enjoy yourself. Debate among (cyber)friends. And if there’s ever a good rule, “Don’t feed the trolls.”

But I’m ready, willing and able to nuke posters. Especially if one or two people are ruining things for everyone. But everyone just be nice, talk about Notre Dame football and enjoy yourselves. I’m not asking you to solve any political crisis.

 

tampabayirish: Keith, I tried to get this question in last week but I missed the deadline. Does anyone know where the next “Navy home game” will be played on Nov 5, 2016 in the Notre Dame series. Let me first offer Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. It is closest to my home and the midshipmen could board and take over the Buccaneers pirate ship in the north end zone. With the chronic poor of play of the Bucs, there is bound to be plenty of surplus Celebratory ammo on board.

Perhaps on a more serious note, we could make an argument for Navy moving the game to San Diego. It’s a great navy town. The weather is the best in the country. You would have to schedule around San Diego State. But that could be done. I am sure that the Irish would welcome a chance to make two California trips that season. In fact, what about playing Navy in San Diego as part of the Shramrock Series.

Not sure about Tampa, but I’m 100 percent in for a Shamrock Series game in San Diego. I’ll see you at Petco Park, because the football stadium is a dump.

Navy hasn’t announced where the 2016 game is being played yet. But with the Shamrock Series returning to San Antonio and Syracuse already playing in the Meadowlands, it’ll likely be a fun location. If you’re hosting, I’m sure the university will give Tampa Bay solid consideration.

 

 

iggynd90:

Hey Keith – long time listener, first time caller…

I’ve got a few questions for you:

1. Have you seen any indications that the team is extra motivated now after having the Florida State game “stolen” from them and/or the “disrespect” shown by the selection committee?

2. Regarding the 4 players who are out this year – what impact does this have on their remaining eligibility? Can they count this season as a redshirt?

3. Just how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop?

In short:

1) No. But I wouldn’t blame them if they used it as fuel.
2) This is a bit tricky, but I was told by someone at Notre Dame that the year won’t could for eligibility, so Ishaq Williams can return for a fifth year and KeiVarae will have two seasons of eligibility left. The fact that DaVaris Daniels is potentially weighing a return leads you to believe that’s the case.
3) Ask the owl.

 

naptownfish:

First time commenter. I’ve read every Inside The Irish post for the last 5-10 years, and every ND article I can find on the internet daily for the past 10-15 years. This is hands down my default site for timely, well-reported news. So thank you. 2 Questions.

The Playoff Committee is to take into consideration injuries when a team plays sub-par. Do you think that should be a criterion for the Committee? What are they judging…football programs as a whole, or how they potentially could play on one special hypothetical day when all starters are healthy and are assumed to stay healthy the entire game? It’s a subjective way to justify overlooking a loss. Does the overall quality and depth of a program not matter?

Most CFP analysts (and common fans) say everything will play itself out, the SEC West will beat itself up, forcing the Committee to place other teams in the Top 4 at season’s end. Given the Committee’s first rankings, can we be so sure? Three of the top four one-loss teams (rankings #3 thru #6) are SEC West teams, implying their losses to each other are the least-penalized. Do you have any fear that if Miss St ends with one loss and all other teams in the Top 15 each add one loss (mathematically possible I believe), we’ll be in the same situation and the final playoff will have 3 teams from the SEC?

Sorry for length. Cut down as you see fit, I tried already. Will keep as short as possible in future.

Naptown, I read this question like five times. I’m not actually sure what the question is, though the committee will factor in all sorts of things when deciding who the Top 4 teams end up being. And I tell you what — If ND ends up 11-1 and sitting out, I’ll buy everybody beers at the Orange Bowl.

Thanks for asking a question. Next one is bound to be a bit more concise.

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) 

(20.5/40)

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.

INSIDE THE IRISH
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

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

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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)