2021 Notre Dame Season Preview and College Football Playoff Odds

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It was a very strange college football season in 2020, and the whole affair had to be taken with a grain of salt. It all played out with a very familiar script though, as Notre Dame saw themselves get walloped by Clemson, and then Alabama, in a postseason that followed up an undefeated regular season.

Yep, we’ve seen this show before (2012, 2018) and this definitely factors into the College Football Playoff prospects and futures for the upcoming season. When you find additional information on bookmakers futures and odds for the CFP, you’ll see the Irish almost always outside the top 10 favorites.

Some bookies are going as long as +10000 to get back in the dance (with about 15 teams ahead of them) while the most bullish bookmaker projections see them priced around +4000 and just barely in the top ten.

So why doesn’t Vegas think the Irish are making a return to the final four? Let’s preview the Notre Dame season.

Notre Dame Greatest Strength

On offense, running back should be the Fighting Irish’s strongest position group. On defense, it will be the group of DEs. Kyren Williams will be the feature back, but the big boys in front of him are a position group in flux this season.

The offensive line turns over four of five starters, but the one experienced guy coming back, starting center Jarrett Patterson, is one of the team’s best overall players. Patterson is very versatile, he can play guard, and even tackle is called upon, but head coach Brian Kelly says he’ll stay at his natural position.

“It’s hard for me to take a player and really put him in at a position where it could affect him down the road,” said Kelly.

“He’s one of the top centers in the country. He’s done so much for our program. Could we be better served if he played another position? You could make the case. But I think my feeling was we’re a good football team with Jarrett Patterson at center, and it helps him in the long run playing that position.”

brian kelly notre dame

Tight end Michael Mayer is one of the nation’s best at his position too. He’ll be a very important part of Tommy Rees’ passing attack, which breaks in a new quarterback.

As for the defensive ends, ND has really had some good ones over the recent years. They just keep swapping new players in, every season when the incumbents graduate. Daelin Hayes and Adetokunbo Ogundeji are gone, but the Irish restock with senior Jayson Ademiola and sophomore Isaiah Foskey.

Factor in big nose tackle Kurt Hinish, and the Irish DL will be the team’s best position group on that side of the ball.

joe moore award notre dame football

Notre Dame Biggest Weakness

For the past half-decade or so, Notre Dame has supplanted Wisconsin (who they’ll meet in Chicago on Sept 25) as OL U. As you can see from the photo above, the Irish won the Joe Moore Award a few years ago, a plaudit that goes to the nation’s best offensive line group.

Brian Kelly broke the OL down like this: “Here’s what I can tell you: Jarrett Patterson is the starting center, and Josh Lugg is going to play for us. Those two guys are the veterans on this offensive line that I can commit to right now. Everybody else has got to earn their way.

Those guys have earned their way with me and this football team. The other guys have got some work to do.”

While this group is inexperienced, they are talented with big tackle Blake Fisher possessing the most potential.

notre dame football

Speaking of Wisconsin connections, the starting QB will be Badgers transfer Jack Coan.

“All three quarterbacks distinguished themselves in the spring and preseason camp,” said Kelly.

“Clearly, each has the skills necessary to lead, but Jack proved to be more consistent and therefore, going into our opener, gives us the best chance for success.”

An extremely talented guy, he was very productive during the short time he was the starter in Madison. He can comfortably step in and run the show, but losing Ian Book is still going to heart for awhile. Book really meant a whole lot to the Notre Dame football program.

Player to Watch

Kyle Hamilton is the best safety in college football, and among the best three defensive backs. He’s probably a top three defensive player, and given all his measurables and skill sets, it’s hard to imagine he sticks around beyond this season.

Hamilton should be a top 10-20 overall pick in the next NFL Draft, and this will simply complete the story arc of his collegiate career. He came to South Bend as a highly rated 5-star recruit. He’ll leave as blue chip NFL prospect.

Bottom Line

Ranked #9 in the AP preseason poll, after finishing last season ranked #5, one should not expect the Irish to finish the regular season undefeated again. However double digit wins is definitely doable, and at this point, should be the minimum expectation.

ND have a streak of four straight double-digit win seasons going, with five in the last six.

2021 Team Season Preview Series:   Northwestern   Notre Dame   Illinois

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated and the  Chicago Tribune.

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