Friday at 4: The results of 40 Notre Dame preseason predictions

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Accountability is the backbone of credibility. With that in mind, let’s laugh at how many of this space’s 40 Notre Dame and Irish-adjacent preseason predictions were woefully misguided.

(Sure, the bowl game seems applicable to some of the season-long stat thoughts, but the vast majority of these watches are ended.)

1) The completed Campus Crossroads project will receive largely positive reviews.
RESULT: Let’s call it a hit. (1-for-1)

2) The completed Campus Crossroads project will be largely an afterthought by season’s end.
RESULT: Now this is certainly valid. (2-for-2)

3) The videos remembering the 1977 national championship team will be a worthwhile usage of the new video board above the south end zone, and a nice way to ease Irish fans into comfort with the board.
RESULT: It took until the USC game in mid-October, but this proved accurate. (3-for-3)

4) Fans will initially balk at pre- and post-game shows on the video board.
RESULT: No one ever seemed bothered by those, actually. (3-for-4)

5) Those shows will become background noise.
RESULT: Claiming this even if they essentially started as background noise. (4-5)

6) The Chicago Cubs will be on the road the night of the USC game, in game six of the National League Championship Series.
RESULT: Well, this would have been accurate if the Cubs had not lost in five games to the Los Angeles Dodgers. (4-6)

7) The Cubs will be knocked out of the playoffs by the time North Carolina State visits Notre Dame a week later.
RESULT: Nailed it. (5-7)

8) At least one junior will prematurely declare an intention to return for his senior year despite NFL Draft possibilities.
RESULT: Perhaps partly a result of receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and tight end Alizé Mack having underwhelming seasons, this never came close to happening. (5-8)

9) Senior left guard Quenton Nelson will not make that mistake.
RESULT: Not that it is in doubt — he’ll head to the NFL — but Nelson never stuck his foot in his mouth during the season. (6-9)

10) Miami will be a warm and high-scoring affair.
RESULT: Warm? Yes. High-scoring? For only one side. (6-10)

11) DeShone Kizer will throw more touchdowns than Malik Zaire will.
RESULT: Kizer’s five are a handful more than Zaire has managed. (7-11)

12) Kizer will lose more turnovers than Zaire will.
RESULT: Kizer has thrown 14 interceptions and lost seven fumbles. Zaire, largely due to hardly playing, threw only one interception and lost just one fumble this season. (8-12)

13) Sophomore Chase Claypool will lead the Irish in special teams tackles.
RESULT: Claypool finished the season with one tackle. Suffice it to say, this was inaccurate. Freshman Jordan Genmark-Heath made 11 tackles this year, all to memory on special teams. If he did not lead Notre Dame in that category, he was certainly among the top few. (8-13)

14) Claypool will have more receptions than tackles this year.
RESULT: He had 28 more, in fact. (9-14)

15) Junior kicker Justin Yoon will set the school record for field goal percentage.
RESULT: Entering the season, Yoon had to make 9-of-16 kicks to claim that mark, needing all 16 to reach the minimum requirement of 50.  Indeed, Yoon finished the season 12-of-16. (10-15)

16) Irish special teams will win at least one game.
RESULT: Nope. It could be argued they played a pretty pivotal role in the loss at Stanford, too. (10-16)

17) Fifth-year senior Cam Smith will have the second most catches for Notre Dame.
RESULT: Partly due to a hamstring injury, Smith made only eight catches in five games. Even if he had been healthy, though, it is unlikely he would have kept pace with Claypool’s 29. (10-17)

18) Mack will have the second-most receiving yards.
RESULT: Marking Mack down as a disappointment may seem harsh, but he certainly fell short of nearly all expectations, including this one. Mack finished with 166 yards, finishing fifth for the Irish. Claypool lands at second in this category, as well, with 402 yards, holding off sophomore Kevin Stepherson and his 359 yards in only eight games. (10-18)

19) St. Brown will lead Notre Dame in all three receiving categories.
RESULT: 31 catches, yes. 468 yards, yes. Four touchdowns, trails Stepherson by one. (10.67-19)

Josh Adams‘ season went better than any reasonable predictions could have ever expected. (Getty Images)

20) Sophomore running back Tony Jones will finish with the second-most rushing yards, behind only Adams.
RESULT: Jones finished fifth with 232 yards. Junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush finished second with 765. (10.67-20)

21) Adams will rush for between 1,174 and 1,274 yards.
RESULT: Sometimes, missing a prediction is not a bad thing, such as when Adams rushes for 1,386 yards. (10.67-21)

22) Junior running back Dexter Williams will finish with the fourth-most rushing yards.
RESULT: Nailed it, though sophomore Deon McIntosh finishing ahead of Williams was never a consideration. (11.67-22)

23) Wimbush will gain more yards on the ground than Williams.
RESULT: More than double, in fact, 765 to 324. (12.67-23)

24) The Irish will average between 34.9 and 36.4 points per game.
RESULT: With 424 points through 12 games, the current average is 35.33. Bullseye. (13.67-24)

Junior linebacker Te’von Coney’s surge this season was certainly appreciated by the Irish. He made 99 tackles through 12 games to lead Notre Dame. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

25) Senior linebacker Nyles Morgan will make the most tackles.
RESULT: Junior linebacker Te’von Coney’s emergence rendered this inaccurate. Coney finished with 99 tackles, compared to Morgan’s 83. (14.67-25)

26) Senior linebacker Drue Tranquill will make more big plays than Morgan while finishing second in tackles.
RESULT: Tranquill finished third in tackles with 74, but the spirit of this foresight was always about the big plays. Lazily leaning on statistics gives Tranquill the edge. (8.5 tackles for loss including 1.5 sacks, three pass breakups including one interception, three fumbles recovered, one fumble forced = 15.5 — Coney had 13 TFLs, one fumble recovered and one fumble forced = 15, but actually only 14 because those two fumble actions came on the same play.) (15.67-26)

27) The defense will total 25-29 sacks.
RESULT: A strong bowl game could tilt this, currently sitting at 22. Considering three would exceed the season average, however, let’s be strict and mark this as a miss. (15.67-27)

28) The defense will force 25-29 turnovers.
RESULT: Twenty may have dwarfed last year’s 14, but it still falls short of this projection. (15.67-28)

29) The defense will allow between 23.6 and 25.1 points per game.
RESULT: That preseason prediction also included the thought of, “The defense will not return to the 2013 level of allowing only 22.4 points per game …” Rather, it exceeded that level and allowed 21.83. (15.67-29)

30) Notre Dame will hit the over on a win total over/under mark of 8.5.
RESULT: Check. (16.67-30)

31) The Irish will finish the regular season with a win at Stanford.
RESULT: *crickets* (16.67-31)

32) Unders: South Carolina under 5 (finished with 8); Georgia Tech under 6 (finished with five); Wake Forest under 5.5 (7); Stanford under 9 (9), and LSU under 9 (9).
RESULT: One correct, two wrong, two pushes. That is a loss at any sportsbook. (16.67-32)

33) Overs: Ohio State over 10.5 (finished with 10); Rutgers over 3 (finished with 4); Arizona over 4.5 (finished with 7); Oregon over 7.5 (finished with 7), and North Carolina State over 7.5 (finished with 8).
RESULT: Going 3-2 would count as a win at any sportsbook. (17.67-33)

34) Notre Dame will beat Georgia to reach the top 25 for the first time.
RESULT: *The return of the crickets* (17.67-34)

35) Four Irish opponents will be ranked at the end of the year.
RESULT: Six currently are: Georgia, Miami, USC, Stanford, Michigan State and North Carolina State. One could argue the semantics of six being ranked means four are ranked. Let’s go with that. (18.67-35)

36) They will not be the same four ranked teams as the beginning of the year’s USC, Stanford Georgia and Miami.
RESULT: Such a line implies only four would be ranked. This is obviously not the case, and serves as grounds to remove the previously credited point in accuracy’s favor. (17.67-36)

The end of the season may have been a letdown, but Irish coach Brian Kelly actually met most logical preseason goals. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

37) Notre Dame will remain in the top 25 for the rest of the season.
RESULT: Once the Irish reached the rankings, they stayed there. Valid enough. (18.67-37)

38) Notre Dame will finish the regular season ranked between No. 13 and No. 18 in the polls.
RESULT: Presuming Wisconsin does not beat Ohio State 140-0 this weekend, this should land in the black side of the ledger. (19.67-38)

39) The Irish will play a bowl game in Orlando.
RESULT: Again, barring a Bucky beat down of the Buckeyes, one could have booked flight plans in August. (20.67-39)

40) At least 15 of these will be wrong.
RESULT: Well, that was obvious.

Final score: 21.67 for 40, or 54.17 percent.
Such a positive percentage would pay for at least a few drinks if properly-deployed. There are worse track records to have in this gambit.


To add one more piece of prognosticator’s applause, if anyone closely read each week’s look at opponents’ schedules, the reader may have noticed certain thoughts intermixed. Those thoughts finished the year 38-21. Now that would buy a few rounds.

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Notre Dame will face South Carolina in the Gator Bowl on Dec. 30

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Notre Dame and South Carolina will meet for the first time in nearly 40 years in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl on Dec. 30 at 3:30 ET (ABC). The Irish and Gamecocks have not played since 1984, a South Carolina win in South Bend. That was part of Notre Dame’s struggles (going 12-11 in 1984 and 1985) that led to Lou Holtz being hired; Holtz, of course, went on to coach the Gamecocks for six seasons after he left the Irish.

Though the No. 21 Irish (8-4) finished the season strongly, including competing gamely at USC a week ago in a 38-27 loss, a driving storyline over the next month will be wondering if head coach Marcus Freeman can handle this bowl game better than the second half of the Fiesta Bowl faceplant last year in his first game as Notre Dame’s leader.

No. 19 South Carolina (8-4) enjoyed an even more impressive finish to the season, knocking both Tennessee and Clemson out of the College Football Playoff in its final two games of the season. Not that gambling spreads mean anything on the football field, but to give an idea how unexpected those two wins were, realize the Gamecocks were expected to lose them by a combined 37.5 points and instead won them by a combined 26 points.

There may be some rough parallels between South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer and Freeman, though Beamer is a year ahead in his head-coaching career.

Beamer was an unexpected hire in Columbia in 2021, never having been a head coach before and most recently the associate head coach and tight ends coach at Oklahoma for three seasons. The Gamecocks went 7-6 in his first year, his head-coaching inexperience perhaps rearing its head as they lost their first three games against Power-Five competition and four of their first five, the exception coming against worse-off Vanderbilt.

Thus, the surge to end the 2022 season stands out, particularly since it again took until October to notch a win against a Power-Five opponent, losing to both Arkansas and, more understandably, Georgia in September.

South Carolina found its most success this season through the air, led by former Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler. He averaged 230.5 yards per game and 7.9 yards per attempt while completing 66.6 percent of his passes. The Gamecocks managed just 123.3 rushing yards per game and 3.8 yards per attempt.

Their rushing defense is one of the worst in the country, which could play right into the Irish offensive strength. Opponents gained 0.194 expected points per rush attempt against South Carolina, the No. 123 ranking in the country, per cfb-graphs.com.

Notre Dame fell to Ohio State, 21-10, to open Freeman’s genuine tenure, a worthwhile loss though one quickly diminished when the Irish fell to Marshall just a week later. Of course, the Buckeyes’ relied on that season-opening win to successfully burgeon their Playoff résumé today.

The Irish already know they will be without both senior cornerback Cam Hart and junior quarterback Drew Pyne in the bowl game. Hart announced last week he will return for a fifth season at Notre Dame, but a shoulder injury will sideline him this month, while Pyne announced Friday he intends to enter the transfer portal, presumably when it officially opens tomorrow.

Star tight end Michael Mayer will almost certainly opt out of the bowl game, his top-20 draft stock assured, and senior defensive end Isaiah Foskey could logically, as well.

Notre Dame nearly ended up in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 28, per reports. The ACC could place the Irish in any of three bowls, the top tier of ACC-affiliated bowls below the Orange Bowl, with some input from the bowls and from the University. That give-and-take seemingly delayed the announcement for a stretch of Sunday.

Drew Pyne to transfer from Notre Dame; Tyler Buchner reportedly a bowl possibility

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Notre Dame may start its third quarterback of the season in its bowl game after junior Drew Pyne announced he will transfer from the program on Friday. A graduate, Pyne has three seasons of eligibility remaining.

ESPN’s Pete Thamel first reported Pyne’s intention to transfer, with Pyne soon thereafter taking to Twitter to confirm as much.

“One of my proudest honors is to have been a student-athlete at the University of Notre Dame,” Pyne wrote. “… It’s time for me to take on a new challenge, and I will be entering the transfer portal.”

Pyne took over as the Irish starter after sophomore Tyler Buchner suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the second week of the season. Pyne went 8-2 as a starter, completing 64.6 percent of his passes for 2,021 yards and 22 touchdowns this season.

His final action at Notre Dame may have been Pyne’s best game of his career, throwing for 318 yards and three touchdowns at USC while completing 23 of 26 passes, the second-most accurate game in Irish history.

He appeared in two games in 2021, stepping in for Jack Coan when he struggled against Wisconsin and Cincinnati. Keeping Pyne to minimal appearances in 2021 was intentional, preserving a season of eligibility for him.

That eligibility will now be used elsewhere.

Without Pyne, Notre Dame will have freshman Steve Angeli and possibly Buchner available in the bowl game, a location and opponent to be announced on Sunday. Football Scoop’s John Brice reported Friday afternoon that Buchner will play in the bowl game, though perhaps that optimism should be measured throughout practice this month.

Regardless, the Irish are expected to pursue an incoming transfer quarterback this month. With names like Texas’ Hudson Card and Virginia’s Brennan Armstrong already in the transfer portal, Notre Dame will have a few options to chase.

That is why Pyne’s transfer makes sense, even if he spoke earnestly about the bowl game following that 38-27 loss in Los Angeles.

“I think we have a lot to play for,” he said. “We’re going to be in a bowl game, I want to send all the seniors out the right way. We have a lot to play for. We have another game, I’m going to prepare as hard as I can for that and finish the season off on a positive note.”

Reversing course from those words is understandable given they came minutes after a competitive game, and the last week has shown Pyne how quickly the quarterback transfer market will move.

In the game of musical chairs that is quarterbacks moving across the country, Pyne waiting until after the bowl game to transfer could serve only to leave him with fewer destinations as options. Not that Pyne may have been looking at Iowa, but the fact that one Power Five starting gig appears to have already been filled by Michigan transfer Cade McNamara presumably underscored the rapid nature of this process.

Understandably, Pyne needs to make the most of this opportunity, coming off a strong season as Notre Dame’s starter but knowing he is unlikely to start for the Irish in 2023. Depending on the level of transfer joining the Irish and Buchner’s health, it was distinctly possible Pyne would be Notre Dame’s third quarterback next year.

For someone who grew up as a Notre Dame fan, specifically a Brady Quinn fan, assuredly this decision was not an easy one for Pyne.

He had a lengthy and notable offer sheet coming out of high school, but Pyne at his best this season would not draw interest from the likes of Texas A&M, Alabama and LSU as he did three years ago. It may be more pertinent to point out he is a Connecticut native, so schools in the northeast could be most logical for his landing spot.

The Irish should also have quarterback commit Kenny Minchey in the pecking order this spring, expected to sign with Notre Dame on Dec. 21 when the early signing period begins.

RELATED READING: Notre Dame’s QB room creates a friendly trust that has been crucial to Pyne’s success
Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 10 Drew Pyne, junior quarterback

Notre Dame adds a fourth receiver commit to recruiting class, helping a roster need

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Notre Dame is addressing its most glaring roster deficiency with a numbers approach. The Irish had only five true scholarship receivers for much of this season, a number they will nearly match in next year’s freshman class alone after adding a fourth receiver commitment on Thursday. Consensus three-star receiver Kaleb Smith (Rick Reedy High School; Frisco, Texas) announced he will join Notre Dame’s class, and he should sign with the Irish on Dec. 21 when the early signing period begins.

Smith was committed to Texas Tech for more than nine months before he backed off that pledge in early November. Marcus Freeman does not welcome official visitors who are committed to other programs, so if Smith wanted to take an official visit to South Bend to watch Notre Dame play Clemson, he needed to open up his recruitment.

The Irish 35-13 win against the then-No. 4 Tigers assuredly helped tip the scales away from his homestate Texas Tech.

Otherwise, Smith has hardly been recruited by anyone. The only other Power Five program to chase him was Baylor when current Notre Dame receivers coach Chansi Stuckey was there.

Listed at only 6-foot and 168 pounds, it is easy to pencil in Smith as a slot receiver, but he is also willing to go up in the air to get the ball. His highlight footage features him repeatedly and astonishingly open.

His size, or lack thereof, will make Smith unique among the quartet of incoming signees. By snagging four receivers in this class, the Irish are proactively fixing an undeniable roster problem. In last year’s Fiesta Bowl, Notre Dame had only four receivers available. Through most of this season, in part due to injuries to Avery Davis and Joe Wilkins, the Irish had a total of six receivers available, including former walk-on Matt Salerno.

While Braden Lenzy will not return for the Irish in 2023, current sophomores Jayden Thomas, Deion Colzie and Lorenzo Styles should all come back, along with current freshman Tobias Merriweather. With these four commitments, a position group of eight may allow Notre Dame to have a genuine two-deep.

If signing four receivers in a class and seven in two years seems like an unsustainable influx, keep in mind two things. First of all, the Irish desperately need to find receiver depth. Lenzy was famously and admittedly exhausted at the end of that Fiesta Bowl faceplant 11 months ago. One more injury this season would have further crippled Notre Dame’s passing game in 2022. Secondly, the one-time transfer allowance will make departures from the program both more common and more alluring to the players. Natural attrition will occur.

RELATED READING: A third four-star receiver commitment, Jaden Greathouse, elevates Notre Dame’s class of 2023 from good to Great
Four-star receiver Rico Flores Jr.’s commitment gives Notre Dame some receiver hope for 2023
Four-star Texas receiver Braylon James gives Notre Dame needed offensive piece in class of 2023

CB Cam Hart out for Notre Dame’s bowl game, but will return in 2023

Notre Dame v North Carolina
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Perhaps earlier than expected, Notre Dame has already received good news this offseason. Senior cornerback Cam Hart will return for a fifth year in South Bend, though he will not put on pads for the Irish in any bowl game, he announced Tuesday evening.

“Due to a shoulder injury that I sustained during the Boston College Game [sic], I could not participate in our final regular season game and will not be able to participate in this year’s bowl game,” Hart wrote on Twitter. “Consequently, I believe my time here isn’t necessarily complete. Choosing to attend the University of Nore Dame has been the best decision I’ve ever made in my entire life.

“In light of that, I’ve decided to return for a fifth season and look forward to taking the field with my brothers in 2023!”

Hart’s 2023 return should give the Irish four returning cornerbacks with starting experience, only fifth-year nickel back Tariq Bracy a notable departure from this year’s cornerbacks group.

Note: The use of “should” is not meant to imply anything about other possibilities. The conditional verb is chosen as recognition of the constantly changing rosters in college football in 2022.

Hart took part in Notre Dame’s Senior Day festivities before facing Boston College, which suggested he was at least considering jumping to the NFL. This quick announcement indicates the injury ruled out that thought process, though the injury had plagued him at points earlier in the season.

A shoulder injury first flared up for Hart this year in the spring of 2022, costing him spring practices. A concern had previously cost him some of 2019, as he adapted from playing receiver in high school. He nonetheless played in 11 games in 2022, starting 10 and making 25 tackles with three for loss and breaking up four passes.

His passes defensed fell from nine in 2021, along with two interceptions, in part because opposing quarterbacks were less enticed to test the increasingly-experienced cornerback. His 6-foot-2 ½ length made Hart something just short of a shutdown cornerback.

With current freshman Benjamin Morrison surging to close this season and classmate Jaden Mickey stepping in for Hart at USC, Notre Dame should enjoy a plethora of tested cornerbacks in 2023. (Current junior Clarence Lewis is the aforementioned fourth.)

In many respects, this will allow the Irish defense to begin the 2023 season with the same calm it had in 2022, when Hart, Lewis and Bracy provided experienced pass defense.

“You have three older veteran corners that can really play at any moment, which makes you feel good,” head coach Marcus Freeman said in August. “Those three guys can play those two corner spots and I don’t feel there will be a drop off with any of them.”

There are a few key decisions left on Notre Dame’s defense — most notably, defensive end Justin Ademilola and safety Brandon Joseph could return in 2023 — but most of them may come after any Irish bowl game. Hart’s choice was presumably expedited by his apparent exclusion from the bowl game due to this injury.

HART CAREER STATISTICS
2020: 8 games; 3 tackles, 2 passes defended.
2021: 13 games, 10 starts; 42 tackles with four for loss, 9 passes defended and two interceptions.
2022: 11 games, 10 starts; 25 tackles with three for loss, 4 passes defended.

RELATED READING: Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 5 Cam Hart, senior cornerback, second-year starter