Leftovers & Links: The case against a 9-win Notre Dame over/under

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As is said, the house always wins. When disagreeing with the proverbial house by a slight margin about Notre Dame’s 2021, the reasonable and responsible thing to do is assume the house is correct.

But that wouldn’t be any fun, would it?

This space speculated on the Irish win total over/under back in mid-March, using an attempt at logic to conclude the appropriate number would be 9.5. PointsBet has instead set it at 9. Furthermore, the values of the respective over and under returns suggest PointsBet expects more action on the under than the over.

Again, the reasonable and responsible thing to do is assume the house is correct.

The NBC Sports betting partner has not yet posted any individual game lines, but looking at other reputable books for such, the disagreement between our 9.5 and their 9 is widespread.

This space considered the Wisconsin contest in Chicago to be a coin flip, not one tilted outright in Badgers’ favor. While a coin flip equates to a 0.5 on the rough win probability scale, a 4-point underdog is more akin to a 0.3 win probability for Notre Dame.

Similarly, this space posited the Irish should beat Cincinnati 70 times out of 100 in 2021, and Virginia Tech 80 times. A 2-point edge disagrees, coming awfully close to that coin flip. To complete that October stretch, a 0.8 win probability against USC does not mesh with being favored by 1-point.

Thus, 9.5 becomes 9, in the house’s eyes. An argument could be made those individual game lines suggest an 8.5 over/under would be even more appropriate.

None of this matters, obviously, unless looking to misguidedly invest a mortgage payment. (Coming from someone who recently signed a mortgage, don’t do that.) The house may have more faith in Trojans head coach Clay Helton (unlikely) or see quarterback Kedon Slovis’ ceiling as that of a Heisman front-runner and possible No. 1 draft pick (more likely). The Bearcats buzz is well-earned until disproved.

Your guess is as good as anyone’s on the Hokies discrepancy — make that, initial discrepancy.

Since being released Friday, that line has been bet up to Notre Dame by 3, roughly comparable to a 0.65 win probability and not all that far off from March’s speculated 0.8.

In terms of getting things right, we’ll take that 1-point move, along with pegging the primetime matchup with North Carolina as a complete coin flip. And when discussing early-enrolled freshman tight end Cane Berrong last week, suggesting the trip to Stanford would be an opportunity for Irish scout team players to get some live action seemed like a bold statement, even as it was published. But no, that was an appropriate amount of Cardinal pessimism.

Given the house always wins, Notre Dame fans should not assume October goes as well as it has throughout this four-year resurgence. The Irish are 12-1 in the most football of months since 2017. (Let’s not discuss the magnitude of that one loss at this moment.) Cincinnati-Virginia Tech-USC-North Carolina could very clearly be a 2-2 stretch for Notre Dame, and if so, that 9-win over/under will hinge on the game immediately preceding the stretch, facing Wisconsin at Soldier Field.

Consider this deference to the house, as well as an acknowledgment that a 9-3 season should not be dismissed when it comes from a team replacing four offensive line starters, the winningest quarterback in program history, its two leading receivers, the best linebacker in the country and half its defensive line. Only three teams in the country could expect to reload from such turnover and still challenge for the College Football Playoff, and as December and January showed, the Irish are not Alabama, Clemson or Ohio State.

But also consider this a precursor to a preseason prediction of 10-2. This space will not have any respect for the Hokies until head coach Justin Fuente can make it through an entire calendar year without selling himself to other job openings. Notre Dame has — somewhat shockingly for the 35-and-under crowd — dominated the intersectional rivalry with USC during Brian Kelly era, 7-3 in his tenure including winning the last three meetings. Slovis may throw a wrench into that trend, but the Irish have clearly focused on the Trojans in recent years.

Take those vague versions of assurances and add in one win amongst Wisconsin-Cincinnati-North Carolina and suddenly an over 9 wins wager could bode well.

Not well enough to invest that mortgage payment — no bet ever bodes that well, ever — but well all the same. (Okay, fine, Mayweather over McGregor aside.)

In most years, a 10-2 record against 10 Power Five opponents (Cincinnati counting as one in this context, Toledo not counting as one, and Navy probably not being notable for the time being) is good enough for a New Year’s Six bowl bid. There are worse ways to open a year than spending New Year’s Day in Atlanta.

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INSIDE THE IRISH
Back to independence, not that Notre Dame ever left it, and the billboards advertising that national reach
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center

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