Well, here we are friends and neighbors. Today is the day that your Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish take the field again against Temple for their official start to the 2013 season.
In the first two parts of my season preview, we took in depth looks at both sides of the team: The offense and the defense. Now that we’ve covered those areas, the most fun – and most difficult – part can commence. Yep, you guessed it, the predictions.
Irish QB Tommy Rees
On an offense that lists a bunch of question marks, the one of biggest concern for me is here at quarterback. It’s not that I think Tommy Rees is a bad quarterback. I’ve seen him play in person several times, and he’s done fairly well. But in the last three years he’s seen game action, I’ve noticed a startling trend of turnovers that hasn’t really ever gotten better. Can his last season at Notre Dame be different? Absolutely it can. Will it be? We’ll just have to wait and see. From what I know about Rees, I’d have to say as the starter again in 2013, he will put up numbers similar to - if slightly less than – those he did as the starter in 2011. Why less? Not because of anything he will do (rightly or wrongly), but because of the dearth of experience he has at the skill positions supporting him.
Prediction: 2,700 yards, 19 TDs, 61% completion rate, 17 INTs
Starting RB George Atkinson III
This is by far my favorite position group on the offense this year. George Atkinson as the speed and ability to put up a 1,500+ yard season. But he won’t. There is just too much depth and talent at RB this year, with Amir Carlisle, Greg Bryant Jr., and Tarean Folson all factoring in. We know Brian Kelly likes to mix it up in the run game; we saw that much last year. There is no reason to think 2013 will be any different. But even with the RB rotation, this will be a good year on the ground for the Irish, especially running behind guards Chris Watt and Christian Lombard.
Predictions: Atkinson – 1050 yards, 8 TDs, 5.2 YPC; Carlisle – 325 yards, 1 TD, 3.5 YPC; Bryant – 570 yards, 4 TDs, 4.1 YPC
WR TJ Jones
Tommy Rees’ performance may ultimately rely on how quickly a young WR corps matures. Yes, this team returns a skilled T.J. Jones, but the rest of the crew hasn’t done much yet in their careers. Jones will be the primary target, and as such should catch the majority of the balls Rees tosses this year. DaVaris Daniels and Chris Brown have a lot to prove early on, but in what I anticipate to be a run-oriented offense, I wouldn’t expect world shattering numbers from them.
Predictions: Jones – 70 catches, 950 yards, 7 TDS; Daniels – 42 catches, 600 yards, 3 TDs; Brown – 29 catches, 450 yards, 3 TDs
I could basically just copy all of my comments about the wide receivers, put them here, and substitute a few names and be done. All of the issues we have at receiver (mainly experience) pop up at the tight end spot as well. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on starter Troy Niklas following the excellent career of Tyler Eifert.
Prediction: 35 catches, 545 yards, 4 TDs
DE Sheldon Day
Notre Dame will field on of the best defenses in all of college football again in 2013. Led by the defensive front of Sheldon Day, Stephon Tuitt, and Louis Nix, points and yards will be hard to come across against the Irish D. There may be some issues in the pass game, but the defensive backfield tandem of KeiVarae Russell and Bennett Jackson are solid, and Russell has the potential to be special.
Prediction: End of year rankings – 3rd overall in yards allowed, 8th in points allowed, 2nd in rush yards allowed, 11th in pass yards.
2013 Schedule overview
8/31 – Temple (3:30 pm)
9/7 – @ #17 Michigan (8:00 pm)
9/14 – @ Purdue (8:00 pm)
9/21 – Michigan State (3:30 pm)
9/28 – #16 Oklahoma (3:30 pm)
10/5 – Arizona State (7:30 pm, Shamrock Series in Dallas, TX)
10/19 – #24 USC (7:30 pm)
10/26 – @ Air Force (5:00 pm)
11/2 – Navy (3:30 pm)
11/9 – @ Pittsburgh (TBD)
11/23 – BYU (3:30 pm)
11/30 – #4 Stanford (TBD)
Top 5 games to watch
1. #4 Stanford – This is the most intriguing game on the schedule, especially considering how the game last year ended. The Cardinal will be looking for revenge for what some see as a win stolen from the grasps of Stanford by the referees.
2. #24 USC – Notre Dame-USC is always one of the top match-ups of the year.
3. #16 Oklahoma – It was a bit of surprise when the Irish beat the Sooners last year 30-13 in Norman. Bob Stoops and the boys will be looking to return the favor when they come to South Bend.
4. #17 Michigan – The end of a rivalry? Maybe, though I see the series renewed by both teams at some point in the next couple of years. But, this still could be the last matchup of these two historical powerhouses for a while.
5. Arizona State – These two programs don’t have much of a history together, playing only twice in 1998 and 1999. The Irish won both games, scoring a total of 76 points while giving up just 26. So why is it on my top 5? Mystery. We don’t know what to expect (well, maybe).
Game to miss: Temple
Let’s face it, if you absolutely had to miss a game this year, the season opener against the Owls of Temple would be my pick. It’s a game that should be a cake walk for Notre Dame, especially against a team that went 4-7 last year.
Win/Loss record and bowl game
I can feasibly seeing the Irish going 8-4 or even 9-3. My personal thought is 9-3, as I feel pretty confident that Notre Dame can lose one game as a surprise to an unranked team (Michigan State or Arizona State), and spilt the series against the ranked opponents, most likely wins against USC and Oklahoma.
So what does this mean for potential bowl games for Brian Kelly and the boys? A 9-3 record won’t be good enough for a BCS Bowl Game, and obviously they won’t sniff the National Championship again this year. But a decent bowl game would definitely be in the works. My best guess? We see the Irish play in Orlando in the Champs Sports Bowl for the second time in 3 years.
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