2019 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football Season Preview, Predictions

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Last season you saw just how close, but yet at the same time also how far the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are to winning their first national title since 1988. The Fighting Irish didn’t give eventual national champion Clemson much of a fight, with the game result settled by midway through the second quarter.

Like the best roller skates available on the market today, Clemson absolutely rolled Alabama in the national title game, in a manner even more lopsided than how they handled Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl semifinal. Early preseason polls believe Clemson will just keep on rolling past everybody this year too. 

However, for Notre Dame the Cotton Bowl was still a better showing than the last time they played for the big prize, back in 2012; and you can expect a better bounce back/follow-up season this time around too.

The program is in a much better place than it was in 2013, and you’ll see that on the field this fall. 

(note: check out my segment talking Notre Dame football on CLTV Sports Feed last week below)

Notre Dame Media Day takeaways: Brian Kelly session

Notre Dame Media Day takeaways: Assistant Coaches session

Names to Know

You can start with the team captains: QB Ian Book, SS Jalen Elliott, WR Chris Finke, FS Alohi Gilman, RT Robert Hainsey, DE Khalid Kareem and DE Julian Okwara.

LT Liam Eichenberg has probably the team’s highest NFL Draft draft stock, but Okwara and RG Tommy Kraemer aren’t very far behind. With Miles Boykin off early to the NFL, Chase Claypool now becomes the number one receiver on this team. Jafar Armstrong is set to be the feature running back.

Stuff to Get Excited About:

The top NFL talent on Notre Dame has often resided on the O-line in recent years, and that trend will likely continue in 2019.

Also, the defensive ends deep and talented, probably the strongest position group in a very strong, deep team. ND’s number one key to success this season could be their ability to 

“Julian Okwara, everyone talks about his pass-rush ability,” Kelly said at Media Day.

“Really doesn’t matter much if you can’t stop the run because you’re going to be on the wrong side of it. We’re going to put our guys in a position where we’re going to stop the run first.

“Julian is going to be part of that. He’s a really good football player. But he’s not one-dimensional. Here is a guy that has a chance to be one of the top players in the NFL Draft. He’s going to be part of that.

“So is Kareem. These guys are being talked about as pass-rushers, but they’re really elite defenders.”

Three of the four starting secondary spots are spoken for, and by stellar players (more on that here). ND is solid, deep and experienced at all the offensive skill positions. 

Stuff to Be Concerned About

The one open spot in the secondary, one of the corner slots, could be an issue (more on that here), and the man that cornerback will try to replace, Julian Love (now with the New York Giants) was arguably the best corner in the nation last season (more on that here)

The middle of the park, on defense could have some issues. For now, we could see a lot of rotation at the inside linebacker position, with a potential emphasis on role specialization, until a more clear picture emerges of who the ILBs will be. 

Also, it’s a good thing that Notre Dame has so many talented pass catchers at the RB position. They’re going to need them as the No. 1 starting TE (Cole Kmet) and No. 3 WR (Michael Young) have both gone down with broken collarbones in the last two weeks.

The season hasn’t even started yet, so the Irish can certainly ill afford any more injuries to anybody else key to the passing attack.

Notable Quotable

“In our scrimmages I think he got all the rust off of him from that year,” said Kelly of cornerback Shaun Crawford, a highly recruited, blue chip prospect coming out of high school who has endured a ridiculously injury-riddled career.

notre dame

“On two one-on-one solo tackles that he had with Jafar Armstrong. That has a tendency to shake all the rust off you. It was good to see that one-on-one tackling.

“His confidence is back. His swagger, if you will, is back. He’s back talking, which is really a good thing for Shaun. He’s really going to help us in a lot of different roles, including special teams.”

Hopefully, for both Crawford and ND, he is more fortunate with his health and is finally able to realize his potential this season. Because the sky is the limit for him if he can avoid injury.

Prediction (to be used at your own risk at the sports book, we will not be held liable for your financial losses):

Notre Dame’s home schedule, USC aside, lacks big brand awareness, so they definitely need to run the table in South Bend. In order to make it back to the playoff, they might have to achieve another perfect regular season.

The only possible exception would be losses at Georgia or Michigan, if either of those teams wins out, gets in, and you have room for a one-loss team in the final four. We’re predicting double digit wins, but we’re not forecasting a return to the CFP. The bookies seem to agree, as the odds are rather long right now on the Irish winning it all in 2019.

2019 Season Preview Series 

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Purdue Boilermakers

NIU Huskies

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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