2015 Notre Dame Football Predictions: Independent (2014 record: 8-5)
Head Coach: Brian Kelly
National Championship Odds: +3200
Season Win Totals Over-Under Odds: Over 9 (-150), Under 9 (+110)
As one of the most storied football teams in the world, the Fighting Irish certainly have had few interesting years that included a big run towards a national title and a bunch of off-field controversy. After a great start to the 2014 season, the Irish lost 4 of its last 5 regular season games, only to finish the season with a bowl game victory. It is interesting to note that as the offense got better, the defense fell apart. On the season, the offense averaged 32.8 PPG on total offense of 444.9 YPG.
Amidst a tumultuous career at Notre Dame, 2014 starting QB Everett Golson (3,445 yards passing, 29 TDs) made the decision to play his final season at Florida State, leaving the 2015 offense looking for a new QB. The favorite to win the starting job is JR Malik Zaire who only threw 35 passes last year, but looks to have a little talent. It will be a big relief to both Coach Kelly and the rest of the offense that both the team’s leading rusher and leading receiver from last year’s team are returning for their junior years. In the backfield, Zaire will be joined by RB Tarean Folston who rushed for 899 yards and 6 TDs as a sophomore. Lining up at wide receiver will be Will Fuller who caught 76 passes for 1,094 yards and 15 TDs. With a nice variety of underclassmen coming in from a terrific recruiting class, Coach Kelly should have no problems putting together an effective offensive strategy behind a big offensive line. The one thing he will be looking for this season is a little more consistency as the offense was known to have more than its share of mental lapses in 2014, especially late in the season.
As noted above, the 2014 defense got off to a great start, allowing 12 PPG over the first 5 games of the season. However, the defense had a couple of key injuries and really fell apart as the season rolled on. They ended up the season giving up 29.2 PPG on just under 404 YPG of total offense.
The great news for Irish fans will be that the defensive unit is returning 9 of its original starters in 2015. It will give the squad the opportunity to make up for its dismal performance over the last 6 games. The defense will be anchored by JR LB Jaylon Smith who was the team’s undeniable leader last year with 112 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He will be joined by JR safety Max Redfield who added 67 tackles and 1 interception of his own. As part of a secondary that really got after the ball, graduating SR DB Matthias Farley will be patrolling the secondary after the 2014 season saw him pull out a fine effort with 53 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a team-high 4 interceptions.
With a veteran squad that might have a chip on its shoulder, this defensive unit will be looking to dominate offenses the way it did early in 2014. Better yet, there is no reason to believe they can’t do it. Coach Kelly looks to have a decent team on both sides of the ball. With a schedule that is manageable, there is a great chance the Irish could make a run a qualifying for the playoffs if QB Zaire transitions well into the starting role. Look for the Irish to win at least 10 games this season