Super Official 18S Season Predictions

As camp enters the stretch run, it’s time to get serious about kicking our glue-sniffing habit.

Wait, wrong post, sorry… It’s time to get serious about our staff’s season predictions for the Notre Dame football in 2017. Personally, I’m not sure I’ve ever been more anxious for a season to start; the memory of 2016 will not soon fade, but Lieber Gott im Himmel have I wanted to try to flush it from my mind anyway. We should handle Temple easily, with some guys looking great and some guys looking rusty, and glide through the fourth quarter with some good playing time for the scrubs. If that doesn’t happen, well, go ahead and make plans for your other fall Saturdays. If it does, it won’t say much about where the season is headed but it will at least give us something tangible to be happy about for a few days. Whee!

We’ve seen so many changes this offseason, from Kelly’s new yoga-riffic daily routine to three new coordinators (and five new assistants overall) to a new starting quarterback. What can we make of all that?

That’s right folks, it’s preseason! You can make anything you want out of it! Semi-spoiler alert: Some of us made hats, some made brooches, and some made pterodactyls. I’m not telling you who made what, though. The suspense!

Seriously, we put our heads together on a bunch of real questions – and a couple of tongue-in-cheek ones, because if we haven’t got our irreverence, we haven’t got anything – to give you, our noble readers, some insight into our thoughts on the upcoming season.

At the end of the post, we’ll have a link to the same survey we filled out so you can add your own responses. We’ll circle back to the numbers after it’s been up for a bit and enough people have had a chance to check it out.

Without further ado…

The 18Stripes Staff Season Predictions

Big Picture Stuff

What will Notre Dame’s 2017 regular season record be?

  • 8-4 – 50%
  • 10-2 – 17%
  • 9-3 – 17%
  • 12-0/11-1 – 8%
  • 7-5 – 8%
  • 6-6 or worse – 0%

So most of us are expecting 8-4 or 7-5, while the rest are expecting 9-3 or better. That feels about right, given that Vegas has set the O/U on our win total at 7.5.

Of course, there’s an implied discussion here of what the impact of one of the lower scenarios would be on Kelly’s continued employment. That’s so fuzzy that it really defies definition at this point, but my hunch is that 8-4 will probably be enough to keep him around for one more year, 6-6 will almost certainly get him canned, and 7-5 is an exceedingly grey area.

Security camera footage of Brian Kelly’s exit interview after 6-6

What’s your biggest concern heading into the season?

  • Defensive line depth chart – 67%
  • 2016 hangover – 17%
  • Defensive fundamentals – 8%
  • Finishing games – 8%

We gave a bunch of other options, ranging from Brian Kelly himself to safety depth to Wimbush’s essential rookie status, but none of those registered with the group. The overwhelming winner was, understandably, the defensive line depth chart; new defensive coordinator Mike Elko will need some magic to sort that one out.

Superlatives

Who will be Notre Dame’s offensive MVP?

  • Josh Adams – 33%
  • Equanimeous St. Brown – 33%
  • Brandon Wimbush – 25%
  • Mike McGlinchey – 8%

Pretty divided here, which makes sense given that all the candidates have shown flashes of brilliant potential but not enough to assure dominance. And who knows, if the defense is as shaky as some fear it will be, we may need multiple MVP-caliber seasons from this group to put together a good year.

We know the actual line is “I just want to tell you both good luck,” but the transcript error here works for the context. Artistic Googling license.

Who will be Notre Dame’s defensive MVP?

  • Nyles Morgan – 67%
  • Daelin Hayes – 17%
  • Drue Tranquill – 8%
  • Julian Love – 8%

Heady stuff for true sophomore Julian Love, making an appearance on this list… Make no mistake, though, senior captain Nyles Morgan is the unquestioned alpha dog of this group. After languishing needlessly in former coordinator Rube Goldberg’s Brian VanGorder’s system, the uber-athlete is poised to excel in Elko’s. The 18Stripes staff is clearly along for the ride. I bet it would be really easy to pick out Morgan’s wallet in a bag full of wallets from a diner robbery. Just saying.

Who will provide the play of the year?

  • Brandon Wimbush – 33%
  • Alize Mack – 25%
  • Equanimeous St. Brown – 17%
  • CJ Sanders (as a kick returner) – 17%
  • Josh Adams – 8%

What jumps out to me a bit here is the conspicuous absence of any defenders, and the strong showing by the relatively inexperienced Alize Mack. He’s an exceptional physical talent and Irish fans have waited for him to break out forever, seemingly. Will his third year be the charm?

Alize Mack barreling through USC’s defense

Which freshman will have the biggest immediate impact?

  • Brock Wright – 42%
  • Isaiah Robertson – 42%
  • Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa – 8%
  • Kurt Hinish – 8%

Not surprisingly, two guys at the thinnest position on the team made this list in MTA and Hinish. They may not be ready but the void must be filled, so not a bad choice in either case. Both were write-in choices; Darnell Ewell was an option, but early camp reports on conditioning made investors skittish. Meanwhile, the two early-enrollees who have college-ready physiques dominated the answers. Weird, huh?

Over/Under Fun

Wins in first 6 games: 5

58% took the over, 42% the under. I almost set this line at 4.5, but I thought, no, let’s make people really make a call. I took the over, as any loyal reader of the site probably would’ve guessed. I could well be wrong about opening 6-0, but if we open even 4-2, given the quality difference in the two halves of our schedule we could be in for a very long season.

The 18S writers’ room after a first-half loss to anyone other than Georgia.

Average team rushing yards in Brian Kelly’s tenure: 2,127

A whopping 92% took the over, while 8% took the under. This surprised me a bit; I know we have a rookie quarterback, a stable of talented running backs, and an offensive line stocked with NFL prospects, but still, I would’ve expected more of an even split here. There’s a bit of a hidden catch as well, as the Irish have beaten this average in only two of Kelly’s seven seasons at the helm. If you guessed those two times were 2012 (2,462) and 2015 (2,703), give yourself a pat on the back. 2011 (2,085) and 2014 (2,073) were very close. 2010, 2013, and 2016, not so much.

Average team passing yards in Brian Kelly’s tenure: 3,272

This was exactly reversed, as 92% took the under and 8% took the over. Flipping the script, only two of Kelly’s seven seasons have actually been under this number; if you guessed 2012 and 2015 again, shove a sharp stick in one eye because you’re half right.  (NB: Don’t really do that.)  The two low seasons were 2012 (2,896) and 2016 (3,051). Despite all that, our crew is bearish on a rookie quarterback’s ability to hit the mark. Or bullish on Chip Long’s stated intention to run the ball more. We’re gonna pound it! For real this time! Honest!

An interesting asterisk to add to this is Chip Long’s recent history.

  • 2012 – ASU – Taylor Kelly (new starter), 3,040 yards.
  • 2013 – ASU – Taylor Kelly, 3,635 yards
  • 2014 – ASU – Taylor Kelly and Mike Bercovici (injury replacement), 3,559 yards
  • 2015 – ASU –  Mike Bercovici, 3,854 yards
  • 2016 – Memphis – Riley Ferguson (new starter), 3,698 yards

Long was only calling plays in Memphis, but his immediate supervisor was Mike Norvell that entire time; it’s reasonable to suspect a stylistic trend might continue. The question might really be whose average will prove more prophetic – Kelly’s or Long’s.

Average team sacks in Brian Kelly’s tenure: 24
Average team tackles for loss in Brian Kelly’s tenure: 70
Average team interceptions in Brian Kelly’s tenure: 12.6

In Elko We Trust.™ For the first two metrics our staff voted the same, as 58% took the over on each. For the interceptions, we were even more convinced that Elko would increase disruption, with 67% taking the over.

An interesting picture begins to emerge here. A majority of our writers thinks our season record will be uninspiring at best (remember, 58% picked 8-4 or 7-5), yet a majority also thinks we’ll run the ball very well and be more disruptive on defense. I would think there would be very little overlap there, which could mean either that people thought differently about the different questions or that some people expect some really weird sh… stuff to happen. Which seems totally out of bounds, since we never seem beset by weird stuff.

Josh Adams rushing yards: 1,100

This was split down the middle, with 50% taking each side. Adams had 933 yards last year; the best season rusher under Kelly was Cierre Wood in 2011 (1,102), followed closely by CJ Prosise in 2015 (1,029).

Equanimeous St. Brown receiving yards: 1,000

Again a 50/50 split, which is interesting considering EQ had 961 yards last year and will enter his junior season as the clear alpha dog at receiver. The best individual season under Kelly was, not surprisingly, Will Fuller in 2015 (1,258).

Brandon Wimbush rushing yards: 400

The staff was more bearish on this one, with 58% taking the under. With so much of the offense’s success riding on Wimbush’s health and enough to manage in his first season as a starter without scrambling all over the place, it would be a bit surprising to see him run extensively. The best individual season under Kelly was Deshone Kizer in 2015 (520), followed closely by 14’s 2016 effort (472). No other Kelly quarterback has cracked 300 yards at Notre Dame.

Nyles Morgan tackles: 110

I was a little surprised that 75% of the staff took the under here, as Morgan seems poised for a breakout year and his spiritual predecessors at Notre Dame, Jaylon Smith and Manti Te’o, logged a combined five seasons above this mark under Kelly. This could be a classic case of evaluating production over potential, though; Morgan has only 154 tackles total through his first three mostly discombobulated seasons. Who was running that defense again?

Live footage of Brian VanGorder adapting his scheme to his players

Daelin Hayes sacks: 8.5

67% took the under here to just 33% for the over. The best individual season under Kelly was Stephon Tuitt in 2012 (11), followed by Romeo Okwara in 2015 (9). Yes, disturbingly, only once in Kelly’s seven seasons has a defender registered double digits in sacks. Diaco’s system wasn’t designed for it, which I get, but you’d think a guy would stumble into a few every once in a while.

Defensive and special teams touchdowns: 4.5

The average Notre Dame season under Kelly has featured 4.3 non-offense scores, hence the line here. We’re bullish on this one, with 67% taking the over. Man, Elko has people sipping the Kool-Aid big time.

Possessions vs. Navy: 10.5

Once again, this is a very purposefully set line, as our average number of possessions against Navy in Kelly’s tenure is 10.3. Unbeknownst to them, perhaps, our staff expects big things from the Irish against the Middies this year, as I didn’t tell them about this next stat until after the voting: Under Kelly, when we’ve had 11 or more possessions against Navy, we’re 4-0 with an average margin of +27.3. When we’ve had 10 or fewer possessions, we’re 1-2 with an average margin of -5. That’s pretty convincing.

Navy’s experience when Notre Dame gets 11+ possessions

Occurrences of “grit” in press conference comments: 50

58% took the over here, 42% the under. Given that Kelly said “grit” four or five times in the first post-practice presser, I think the unders are going to lose some cash on this one.

Dreaded Votes of Confidence handed out by Jack Swarbrick: 1.5

67% took the under, 33% the over. I took the under myself, but I don’t think it’ll be zero; I expect that at least once during this year Swarbrick is going to be asked if he has confidence in Kelly and he’ll have to say yes. Even if he means no, because that’s how PR works and WHY DO I STILL HAVE TO EXPLAIN THIS?

Observer ads taken out by disgruntled alumni: 0.5

We’re split evenly on this one. Those zany disgruntled alumni, always up to hijinx and tomfoolery… Hopefully the guy who designed last year’s Observer ad will stay in the focus group this time, instead of the design committee. Or least upgrade from PowerPoint 97 to 2013. Please.

Prop Bets

Which coordinator will have the biggest impact in 2017?

No offense to Chip Long, but 100% of the respondents chose Mike Elko. I didn’t include new special teams coordinator Brian Polian in the options, but I highly doubt the voting would’ve gone any differently anyway. No offense to PunterBro. Like I said, In Elko We Trust.™

Who will start at free safety against Temple?

92% said Nick Coleman, while 8% took the field. Coleman rose from the ashes of a disastrous 2016 season at corner to seize control of the #1 free safety spot in the spring, a development that literally nobody saw coming. I’ll bet even Nick Coleman’s mother didn’t see it coming. That’s how crazy it was.

Who will start at free safety against Stanford?

67% said Nick Coleman, while 33% took the field. It seems Nick hasn’t quite dragged a few people onto his hype train yet. Don’t worry, there’s still time folks. And if you don’t ever want to get on board? Nick has a message for you.

Who will lead the team in touchdowns?

75% chose Josh Adams, while 25% chose the field. The presumed workhorse back seems like a natural choice, given a healthy season.

Who will lead the team in sacks?

58% chose Daelin Hayes, while 42% chose the field. The most prominent non-Daelin candidates are Nyles Morgan and Drue Tranquill; last year, their Wake Forest counterparts were second and third on their team, respectively. However, in each of the last seven seasons, a defensive lineman was Elko’s leading sack man. Seems a wise bet to assume that will continue.

Who will lead the team in interceptions?

Poor Julian Love… Only 8% took the proffered Julian while 92% took the field. I chose Love due to his heady play last year and a lack of proven playmakers elsewhere in the secondary. We saw an interesting dynamic unfold in the secondary during fall camp, though; Nick Watkins, Donte Vaughn, and Shaun Crawford have all played at a high level. Watkins could be rusty, Crawford will always be a health risk, and Vaughn is still a sophomore, but still… That significantly clouds Love’s outlook at corner this season. He’s too good a player not too see the field, but if all those guys are rolling, so are they. Love’s performance at safety against Army last year had many wondering about a potential future there; if he can’t break through the corner logjam, that future might come sooner than we thought.

Your Turn!

We invite you to view the survey yourself here and submit your own responses. As promised, we’ll revisit the data in a couple of weeks to make sure people have had a chance to check it out. Click and enjoy.

Well? We’re waiting!!!

I really wanted to use the Judge Smails gif here, but it would be a shame to put together a nearly complete Airplane! theme and then throw in a Caddyshack gif at the end. So I encourage you to enjoy this final gif, but hear Smails’s voice over it. You’ll be better for it, I promise.

By |2018-05-09T22:26:03+00:00August 16th, 2017|Football|50 Comments

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nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Great post. Great movie.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Y’all been drinking this early in the morning?

mpvahalik1
mpvahalik1

I think 8-4 plus a bowl WIN will save Kelly’s job for another season. Anything less is questionable.

Clearwall
Clearwall

Safety depth was my biggest concern. I just dont think we have enough players there with enough talent to compete with our schedule. God help us if any of our starters go down.

Bob Rodes
Bob Rodes

I’m a little more concerned about center. Safety is number two for sure, but if Mustipher goes down Ruhland hasn’t got much practice snapping the ball. He could surprise me though.

Eric Murtaugh

Forgot who in the beat mentioned it a while ago–although this was before fall camp–they expect Bars to be the backup center. That could change if Ruhland had a great camp but I doubt it.

DrIck
DrIck

Just wanted to check in and see how Leon is doing?

HolyCrossHog
HolyCrossHog

Well played

IrishHorsfly
IrishHorsfly

Love the Movie. Nervous about the Season.

gbsk
gbsk

I think safety depth is the greatest concern. My choice for best freshman is Cole Kmet.

Concrete Charlie
Concrete Charlie

Fantastic article! BTW, I checked in over at TOS because I was bored. To save you guys some time, I will summarize the posts below:

~ I am outraged!
~~ I am more outraged!
~~~ your outrage pales in comparison with my outrage *nfm
~~ only outraged? Kelly Lover!
~~ I will never attend another game ever
~~~ all that beautiful pavement torn up for a lousy BUILDING!
~~~~ I’m no architect, but if I was I wouldn’t design that kind of building
~~ The penalty for the cheating scandal wasn’t enough!
~~~ the NCAA should make us vacate all wins post-Holtz!!!
~~ Just got an email. Those clowns in the ticket office are trying to sell tickets
~~~ they are so desperate!
~~~~ it’s outrageous!!!

edit: aaaaack! I lost the indentations. Oh well, you get the idea

More Noise
More Noise

Hey, actually, thanks! Life is too short too spend much time on TOS, at least the “commentaries” part; I guess every now and then there are some useful threads but talk about much sifting of chaff for like, milligrams of wheat… but it’s useful to know what some of our fellow interested parties in Notre Dame football are talking about. A true shame, sucgh a waste. We need everyone to get in the stadium and make… More Noise… and try to help the kids. At least that is the way I see it. BTW, the jumbotron guys are shaping it up to be a genuine celebration of the best of us. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Bob Rodes
Bob Rodes

“I bet it would be really easy to pick out Morgan’s wallet in a bag full of wallets from a diner robbery. Just saying.”
A circumlocutory tour de force. Well done, sir, well done indeed. 🙂

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

I predict that BK will never learn that sometimes it’s just better to STFU – http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2726550

DrIck
DrIck

What in it was egregious?

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

I think the headline grabber, which he should have known the internets would run with, is creating yet another excuse with the fundraising thing. Given that the media rap on him is that he creates excuses, he should probably stop listing excuses. Even if it happens to be based in reality.

What bothers me more, though, is this:

“I don’t know Jack’s reasoning for it,” Kelly says. “He gets hit more than I do. He’s getting hit by guys that have big pockets. My reaction was, Really? You need to say something? If you’ve got to start defending football coaches after he takes a team to the (BCS) national championship game and a step away from being in the playoffs over the last four years, it’s going to be a rough run for you here after being vacant here for 20 years.”

BK thinks he’s doing a great job! That’s nuts. He’s doing a “barely didn’t get fired despite having signed a 6-year contract extension within the last year” job. He is on one of the hottest seats in the country. I’m not expecting him to explicitly say he understands that it would be reasonable for him to have been fired last year (that would be a correct but counterproductive statement), but he could instead just say something like “any time you have a very poor season at Notre Dame, people will be asking about the coach” and move on.

Concrete Charlie
Concrete Charlie

I think he is clearly creating a narrative. Last year was bad because I had to take my focus away from the team. This year is different.

If things work out and we get 10 wins, he’ll be able to say, “see, I fixed things”. If we head into the can with fewer than 8 wins, it won’t matter anyway. He’ll be canned, but still may be able to trot that narrative out again in interviews. ‘I tried to fix it, but they still made me do all this other stuff.”

A charitable view would be that he is saying this maybe to give players more confidence in the coming year (‘I have all the answers”). Maybe recruits, too.

A less charitable view is that it is all about BK and his ego.

He probably half thinks it’s the former, but it is probably mostly the latter in reality.

Russell Knox
Russell Knox

I thought he made a great point about taking them to the BCS and being one field goal away from the playoffs. If ND fires him after one bad season, what coach are they going to get after that? Only the desperate coaches would take that job.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

That’s one way to spin it, but the reality is that it would be firing him after an eh first season, a bad second season, a very very good to arguably great third season, not-good fourth and fifth seasons, a sixth season that was no better than the second season was bad, and then a disaster of a season. Based on the track record, that would be a reasonable firing candidate – it’s not clear cut, but it’s not like it would be absurd to fire him after that, and it is certainly not the case that he has done as good as a job as his quote would indicate.

MDIRISH
MDIRISH

I agree except they woulda kept us out even if we beat Stanford. Also that game triggers me. We could peel off ten yard runs at will… then we lost.

Publius2010
Publius2010

Goddammit I knew that stupid stadium project was a major problem. The focus was on fundraising for this giant, weird amalgamation of football and education facilities (believe me, I got an annoyingly amount of phone calls about buying a box seat in the new stadium from people who clearly think I’m in higher tax bracket than I really am), to the point where Kelly was an absentee coach. Indications of this came out even before today: he admitted that he didn’t know all the players’ names last year, Longo wasn’t supervising workouts, and the sheer fact that the defense was an absolutely appalling mess. I’m not against a stadium renovation, but the way this was done, attaching a massive building to the stadium with an attendingly massive cost, the fundraising of which took up so much of the AD and head coach’s time that they didn’t notice the disasterous direction the football program was going in.

Orlok
Orlok

Doing some reading before the season (mostly Bill Connelly team previews). A couple of interesting data points.

Talent rankings of current rosters (247 is amazing!). We’re at #10:
http://247sports.com/Season/2016-Football/CollegeTeamTalentComposite

Brian Kelly’s surprisingly good position on this ranking of coaching’s overachievers (It does include his time at Cincinnati, but it reminds us he did some good work before he got the job):
https://www.footballstudyhall.com/2016/7/15/12200790/second-order-wins-college-football-pat-fitzgerald-kevin-wilson?_ga=2.164987647.1748844404.1502813554-29403151.1502813554

Lastly, when Pete Sampson visited the local club, he said Kelly needed nine wins to save his job (presumably that includes a bowl win? I wasn’t there). My own prediction is 7-5 and Jack Swarbrick suffers a great deal. I appreciate Kelly making so many changes, but if you have to “figure it out” in your seventh year at a school (plus all his years of coaching before), it’s hard for me to be optimistic. But, again, we’re a top 10 talent team, so good things could happen even against this tough schedule. Go Irish!

DrIck
DrIck

How about those Rockne unis for the Navy game, though??

Clearwall
Clearwall

Really really like em. Dont LOVE em, but I do love elements of it. Probably a top 3 all time alternate uni though