Notre Dame Football: Predicting the Irish's 2015 Win-Loss Record
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The Notre Dame football season is fast approaching, and with summer OTAs around the corner, let’s take a glance at the 2015 schedule.
We’re still more than 100 days away from the start of the season, but an early look at the schedule and how Notre Dame stacks up against its opponents can be instructive.
In breaking down the Irish and their 2015 prospects, we’ll consider the regular-season matchups in different categories. The following aren’t equal tiers; rather, they’re ranges of confidence.
Let’s have a look.
The (Should Be) Sure Things
Coaches never want to pencil in victories, especially when the regular season is still roughly four months away. But Notre Dame fans can rest easy with matchups against UMass, Virginia, Wake Forest, Temple and, to a lesser extent, Boston College.
The Minutemen finished 3-9 last season in their third year at the FBS level and are maybe as close as Notre Dame has come to playing an FCS-caliber opponent. The Irish should take care of business, especially at Notre Dame Stadium in September.
In Week 2, Notre Dame travels to Charlottesville, Virginia, to meet the Cavaliers, who went 5-7 in 2014. On Saturday, Cavaliers quarterback Greyson Lambert announced his intention to transfer from Virginia. The Cavaliers still have Matt Johns to lead the offense, but the Irish should make quick work on the East Coast.
Like UMass, Wake Forest stumbled to a 3-9 mark in 2014. The Irish will face the Demon Deacons on Senior Day at Notre Dame Stadium in mid-November, a difficult setting in which to see Notre Dame fall.
The Irish square off with Temple at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and Boston College at Fenway Park in the Shamrock Series game. Notre Dame will have had a full bye week to prepare for the Owls, and the Eagles no longer boast standout dual-threat quarterback Tyler Murphy.
Will Be and Should Be Favored
In this next group of games, we expect Notre Dame to be favored, though these four tilts aren’t as certain as the previous five.
Let’s start with the season opener against Texas. The Longhorns possess plenty of talent under second-year head coach Charlie Strong, but they still lack a proven quarterback. With a strong rushing attack and all-around defensive effort, the Irish should start 1-0.
You could make the argument that including Georgia Tech in this group is a jab at the Yellow Jackets. After all, Paul Johnson’s club is fresh off an 11-3 campaign, capped by a 49-34 Orange Bowl win over Mississippi State. The option always seems to give the Irish fits, but at home in September, Notre Dame will likely still be favored.
Navy and Pittsburgh present similar threats to the Irish, though the Midshipmen will travel to South Bend, and the Panthers will host Notre Dame in Pittsburgh. Navy’s ground game can never be discounted, and Pittsburgh trapped Notre Dame in early November during the 2013 season. The Irish will be the more talented team in both tilts, but Notre Dame fans know better than to look past these games.
The three games against Clemson, USC and Stanford appear to be toss-ups, at least as we sit here in mid-May.
The Irish must travel to South Carolina to tussle with the Tigers in the first weekend of October. Clemson claimed a 10-win season by stomping Oklahoma, 40-6, in the Russell Athletic Bowl. A healthy Deshaun Watson at quarterback for the Tigers spells trouble for Notre Dame.
Two weeks later, the Irish welcome USC to Notre Dame Stadium for the second home night game of the season. A rocking environment obviously favors the Irish, but Notre Dame will need to quell any talk of a post-Navy hangover while also worrying about Cody Kessler, Su’a Cravens and company.
The annual Thanksgiving trip to California is often a toss-up, and this year is no different, even though the Cardinal are coming off an 8-5 season. Quarterback Kevin Hogan is back, and he’ll be looking to redeem himself for last year’s struggles against the Irish defense.
Irish fans should be confident against Virginia, UMass, Temple, Wake Forest and Boston College. To a lesser extent, Notre Dame will be expected to handle Pittsburgh and Navy.
The question, then, becomes how the Irish fare against Texas, Georgia Tech, Clemson, USC and Stanford. With a potentially stout defense, a good ground game and a first-year quarterback in Malik Zaire, it seems reasonable to slot the Irish in for wins in three of those five games—at least as a starting point.
Should Zaire exceed expectations (of the reasonable sort) and should the healthy defense scrape its potential, the Irish could be looking at even better results.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.