These predictions for Notre Dame’s 2019 have formed over a few weeks, scribbled onto a legal pad as they are pondered, in no particular order. Before moving from paper to screen, some order is developed, intended to work from September to November and from one side of the ball to the other.
Coming up with 40 takes some time, as does beefing up an initial phrase into a sentence or a paragraph. For example …
“Young No. 2 in TD catches, prorate weeks 4-9 into full season of stats.”
That was written in early August, before junior receiver Michael Young broke his collarbone. To that point, he had emerged as a steady receiver, one perhaps poised for a breakout season. If looking at the middle section of his 2018, predicting a 17-catch, 331-yard season would have been the floor for his coming year. Something along the lines of 30 catches for 500 yards and five touchdowns would have been a realistic projection.
A callback to a March quote from Chip Long would have been offered as support for this belief in Young.
“Michael is up to a little over 190 (pounds) and hasn’t lost a step,” the Irish offensive coordinator said at the start of spring practices. “That added armor helps you get off the press. It’s what helped Miles (Boykin) take his game to another level.”
Instead, Young will miss the first few weeks of the season, at a minimum, perhaps as much as half of it.
Draw a line through that prediction.
Thus, here are only half the preseason’s 40 predictions. Some need to be reworked, others are not set in stone yet, a few may arise in the next week.
1) When freshman quarterback Phil Jurkovec (pictured at top) mops up against Louisville, his initial set of plays will include at least one designed run, an attempt from Long to ease Jurkovec into a rhythm.
2) The season will fly by … after it starts impossibly slowly, a natural result of an idle week 2 and only one home game before the last weekend of September.
3) Notre Dame will reach 2-0 against former head coaches, New Mexico’s Bob Davie joining Ty Willingham, then of Washington, in this unflattering distinction. The Irish topped the Huskies 36-17 in September of 2005, Willingham’s first season back west.
4) Davie’s season won’t fare much better than Willingham’s 2005 did, when Washington went 2-9 and finished in last place in the Pac 10. Remember the Pac 10? Simpler times.
5) Junior kicker Jonathan Doerer will miss at least two field goal attempts to the right, his first two misses of the season. The initial of those will not come at Notre Dame Stadium. That is in part due to comfort and in part due to a welcoming crowd, but mostly because the Irish will not much need him against New Mexico, while they will at Georgia.
6) A Notre Dame defender will be ejected for targeting this season.
7) A Notre Dame defender will also be the beneficiary of targeting no longer being able to “stand” after review, meaning if there is any aspect of the ruling that is inconclusive, the call must be overturned. This is a new NCAA rule.
8) No Notre Dame defender will get a one-game suspension for a third targeting penalty, another new NCAA rule.
9) Speaking of new rules, the Irish will not reach a fifth overtime, which now consists solely of two-point conversion attempts.
10) ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be on location for Notre Dame’s trip to Georgia, despite the game being in primetime on CBS. Anyone have any intel on where “GameDay” will film in Athens? How about a lunch recommendation near campus? Appreciated in advance.
11) “GameDay” will not show up for any other Irish games. Why not at Michigan on Oct. 26? Both Auburn and LSU could be 7-0 that night when they meet in Tiger Stadium. Even at 6-1, Auburn (at Texas A&M on Sept. 21; at Florida on Oct. 5) may have a top-10 ranking. Likewise for LSU (at Texas on Sept. 7; vs. Florida on Oct. 12). A one-loss Notre Dame would not remain as high in the rankings.
12) Virginia will be ranked in at least one of the AP or Coaches top-25 polls when traveling to Notre Dame on Sept. 28.
13) That will make the Cavaliers the only home opponent on the Irish schedule this season.
14) Two opposing head coaches will be fired before the regular season ends, one mentioned by name already in this listing and the other just alluded to by omission.
15) In Brian Kelly’s nine seasons, Notre Dame has scored at least 50 points eight times, most recently with 56 at Wake Forest last September and with a high of 62 against Massachusetts in September of 2015. The Irish may not reach that latter number against Bowling Green in early October, but they will at least make it a ninth time with 50 points. If things get out of hand on Labor Day, amend that to being a 10th time.
16) Notre Dame will go 7-0 at home for the first time since 1988. Admittedly, there have been only six chances in that interim, going 4-3 in 2010 and 6-1 in 2017 under Kelly.
17) That home loss in 2017, the 20-19 squeaker to Georgia, was the last Notre Dame Stadium defeat. By remaining the case through this season, the Irish will run their home winning streak to 18 games, coming within one game of the second-longest streak in program history. Lou Holtz’s 1987-90 teams ran off 19 home victories, a bit behind Frank Leahy’s 1942-50 stretch of 28 straight. The Holtz mark will be tied if (read: when) Notre Dame beats Arkansas on Sept. 12. Reaching the Leahy mark would require reeling off home triumphs through October of 2021. Note: Clemson visits before then.
18) Long will not let rumors swirl around him for long if/when Illinois fires head coach Lovie Smith. The Illini are 9-27 under Smith, whose buyout drops to $4 million this season. That is still resoundingly more than the $1 million it would be after 2021, but it is at least a manageable number. If Smith holds on, he should thank his athletic director for scheduling Connecticut to bolster his record.
Long worked as tight ends coach at Illinois for two seasons at the start of the decade and should be a popular name in head coaching speculations this coming offseason, but he is also smart enough to hold out for a job that isn’t, well, Illinois.
19) None of senior safety Alohi Gilman, senior quarterback Ian Book, senior left tackle Liam Eichenberg, senior right guard Tommy Kraemer, junior right tackle Robert Hainsey or junior running back Jafar Armstrong will slip up when discussing their NFL intentions. They are the six players with varying likelihoods of leaving eligibility on the table to head to the next level. Of them, Gilman will come closest to admitting he plans to make the jump, while Book will discuss it the most simply because he will be asked about it the most.
20) That list previously included junior tight end Cole Kmet, part of another prediction with a line through it at this point. The initial scribblings read, “Kmet not match Mack’s career in one year, but match Niklas’ 2013.”
Alizé Mack’s career totals: 68 catches for 716 yards and four touchdowns.
Troy Niklas’ 2013 totals: 32 catches for 498 yards and five touchdowns.
The idea was to put Kmet’s 2019 somewhere between those two stat lines. He should still have a good year, but projecting his stats requires projecting the timeline of his return from a broken collarbone, and anyone writing about sports is assuredly not a doctor.
Rather, let’s commit to a prediction previously only under consideration. Sophomore Tommy Tremble will finish no lower than No. 2 among tight ends in both catches and yards. For someone who last played competitive football in August of 2017, before breaking his foot early in his senior season of high school, that will be quite a piece of progress.
Now, give yours truly a week to add numbers behind wonderings of “points per game,” “rushing yards per game,” and “over/under nine wins.” The math behind each of those hinges on the clarity provided by a drink or two.