Notre Dame Football: 10 Reasons Irish Won't Win 10 Games in 2013
Notre Dame took on the 2012 season in unbelievable fashion when it finished 12-0 and earned a berth in the BCS National Championship Game. It ended badly for the Irish, but new expectations are present in South Bend.
While the fans have a lot to get excited about heading into spring practice, there are 10 solid reasons this squad won’t finish this season with 10 wins or better.
There is a huge gap in the backfield that was the key to the offense, the receiver corps took a hit and there are still questions surrounding the quarterback position.
This is a look at the 10 things that should worry Irish fans heading into the spring.
Rushing Game Losing Stars
The losses of Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick are huge for Notre Dame heading into the spring. Both players were the backbones of the Irish offense last season, and this year there are a number of unproven talents who will fill the gaps left behind.
There is some experience, with George Atkinson III taking on more carries, but behind him the Irish may have to rely on incoming freshmen to give the team quality snaps from the backfield.
The Irish have to improve greatly in the passing game, or hope that they find dynamic playmakers in this incoming recruiting class. Without a solid ground game, this team will struggle to mount any offensive production in 2013.
Notre Dame has scheduled some very tough games in the past few seasons, and 2013 doesn’t disappoint.
Games against Michigan, Purdue, Stanford and Pitt come on the road, while home games against Oklahoma, Michigan State, Arizona State and USC will complete one of the toughest schedules in the country.
Brian Kelly knows to be the best you have to beat the best, but the Irish have enough reputation to rise to No. 1 without the excess of tough games.
As the year progresses, it will become clear that this schedule makes it impossible for the Irish to win 10 games.
Defense Has Too Many Gaps
If Manti Te’o were the only big playmaker gone from last year’s defense, there wouldn’t be too much concern for Notre Dame heading into 2013.
Instead of just losing Te’o, the Irish lose starter Kapron Lewis-Moore at defensive end and Zeke Motta at safety.
While the rest of the defense is solid with starters, there is a gap in depth at a number of places. The defensive line and secondary are two that come to mind.
The loss of Te’o will be felt doubly strong for the Irish as the rising starter will fall short of Te’o’s production.
Incoming freshman Max Redfield appears to be the leading candidate for starting safety this season. Starting freshmen is tough, and it leads to losses.
Putting together a freshman starting at safety, the losses along the line and the holes in the middle of the defense, this Irish team is a far cry from where it was in 2012.
The Irish lose four of their top six receivers heading into the new year, and the passing game has to be a focus for the offense. It is going to be a tough transition with unproven receivers taking the field for this Notre Dame team.
The losses of Robby Toma and Tyler Eifert are big, but also the loss of Theo Riddick from the backfield is a major blow.
This is setting up to be a very tough year for this program. If there aren’t any playmakers found this spring at receiver, the Irish will be in trouble. Having solid safety valves for young quarterbacks is huge.
Even if Notre Dame relies on the ground game, effective receivers move the ball. Right now, the Irish are struggling to find some.
Dynamic Tight End Gone
Notre Dame is losing one of the biggest weapons in the country this year with Tyler Eifert leaving for the NFL draft. Replacing a player of that caliber is next to impossible.
The Irish do have Troy Niklas and Ben Koyack returning, but neither has the immediate star power of Eifert.
As Notre Dame tries to push through a rough schedule, having a proven playmaker at the tight end position would be invaluable. Unfortunately, there isn’t experience around.
The tight end is a major part of the passing offense for Notre Dame. Last year, Eifert led the team in receptions and yards. Eliminate him, and you kill the Irish passing game from 2012.
Replacing Eifert may be the toughest task this team faces, and it may be an insurmountable hill to climb.
Safety Full of Questions
Notre Dame has been led in the secondary by Zeke Motta from the safety position over the past few years. This season, he steps away from South Bend, and the Irish must find a replacement for him.
The early fix that is expected for Notre Dame this fall is to put incoming freshman Max Redfield in the secondary from day one as a starter. While that may breed the most athletic results, it will bring miscues.
This defense is going to face a lot of issues heading into the new season, but this will be the most difficult problem to find an answer to. If Redfield starts against Temple on August 31, there will be some issues for the Irish defense next year.
Quarterback Controversy Looming
Whether fans like to admit it or not, there is a quarterback controversy looming in South Bend. The Irish have Everett Golson stepping into spring as the incumbent, but they also have a host of top talent lining the roster behind him.
Guys like Gunner Kiel and Tommy Rees are not going to roll over and concede the starting position to Golson just because he finished the year as the starter.
Look for this spring to bring more questions than answers for this position group and for it to cause issues heading into summer for the team.
Even if Golson is handed the keys again from day one this spring, whispers of controversy will follow the team until August.
Offensive Line Losing Stars
The Irish offensive line is losing Mike Golic, Jr. at guard and Braxston Cave at center heading into the 2013 season. Both players were key in helping the Notre Dame offense explode on the ground last fall.
Finding a replacement at guard is not a terribly difficult task, but finding a new center always is.
The center is the leader of the line, and he garners the most responsibility pre-snap. This will be a tough role to fill for the Irish.
The expected starter is Matt Hegarty, but health issues have sidelined him in the past and could again. Finding a solid starter is a major issue that will set back this program this season.
After overachieving in 2012, the Irish are headed for a lot of disappointment in 2013. There are a lot of hopes and expectations that this program will return to the title game this fall after an unbelievable season a year ago.
The reality is that repeating as an undefeated is nearly impossible, and that returning to the title game will be the same this year for Notre Dame.
This program will play very tight for the first few weeks as it tries to push through the expectations that will hang over its head. The players will feel the pressure throughout the year to continue the undefeated streak.
Meeting expectations after a season like last year is nearly impossible for this team. The Irish will try, but by the end of the year it will be a disappointing fourth year under Brian Kelly.
National Title Hangover
When a team faces disappointment, it can be tough to bounce back. Notre Dame is in that position right now.
The program pulled off the unexpected by marching into the national title game last fall, but the Irish got blasted by Alabama and looked like they didn’t belong in the game.
Heading into the new year, this team will struggle to get the ball rolling in the right direction. The disappointment that comes from a loss like the one in Miami is hard to forget.
The hangover from the national title throttling will be felt, and it should show in Week 1 against Temple.