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Notre Dame

Fighting Irish

College Football

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After a tumultuous four-win season, Brian Kelly is banking on a new quarterback to lead Notre Dame’s return to relevance in 2017. The Fighting Irish couldn't do many things right last year so two new coordinators will take over each side of the ball. On the offensive side, Chip Long, formerly of Memphis, is expected to pick up the pace with new quarterback Brandon Wimbush. Defensively, Mike Elko comes over from a great few years at Wake Forest and aims to get Notre Dame back to one of the elites.

The hype continues to grow for Brandon Wimbush, who will lead an option-based, spread-it-out type of offense that will run plays as fast as possible. His big arm combined with speed on the ground is what the news outlets are hyping. Still, he’s a junior that has rarely seen the field up until now. But while he provides the hope of returning this offense to elite, the pieces around him are what will drive this group. The line returns four starters, all of them seniors. That should lead to a better season for running back Josh Adams (933 yards, 5 TDs) after going for 5.9 yards per carry last year. It’s the same at receiver with Equanimeous St. Brown (961 yards, 9 TDs) the top guy followed by Chase Claypool and Miles Boykin with a couple experienced tight ends (Alize Mack, Durham Smythe). Wimbush may be good, but it’s the talent around him that will boost this offense from last year’s 30.9 points per game.

To get back to double-digit wins and a winning record at a minimum, the defense has to be better. The Irish had issues throughout the season on this end and Elko will try and change that immediately. The good news is that three experienced senior linebackers return to lead the way with Nyles Morgan and Greer Martini joined by former safety Drue Tranquill. Talent usually isn’t something the Irish lack, but with only four returning starters, there are some questions about depth. The line will need to get some help to go with a big season from end Daelin Hayes and the secondary will be young.

There’s no question Notre Dame will be better than last year’s disaster, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be headed to the Playoff right away. Wimbush is still an unknown and the schedule is difficult, per usual. The route to an early 5-0 record is there with Georgia coming to South Bend, while trips to BC and MSU are both winnable. Things pick up a bit in the middle with road games at UNC, Miami and Stanford standing out. To reach nine wins, the Irish will have to win one of those games or plan on upsetting USC in mid-October.

A lot of these games are winnable for the Irish, but that doesn’t mean they’ll win them. The defense still needs to jump a level, especially if the offense is going to play at a higher pace. If Wimbush can match what DeShone Kizer did last season, that’d be great, but this team still has work in other areas. Yet because of name alone, Notre Dame is +8000 at 5Dimes Sportsbook to win the National Championship.


2017 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football Schedule

Sept. 2 vs. Temple
Sept. 9 vs. Georgia
Sept. 16 at Boston College
Sept. 23 at Michigan State

Sept. 30 vs. Miami (OH)
Oct. 7 at North Carolina
Oct. 21 vs. USC

Oct. 28 vs. NC State
Nov. 4 vs. Wake Forest
Nov. 11 at Miami (FL)
Nov. 18 vs. Navy
Nov. 25 at Stanford

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