2017 Prespring Rankings: No. 25 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The 2017 prespring college football rankings, taking the first look at the Notre Dame Fighting Irish
No. 25: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame Fighting Irish Prespring Status
Considering Michigan State won the head-to-head matchup, Notre Dame was probably the biggest clunker of 2016. The talent was in place, the schedule was in place – there were just three true road games – and the expectations were in place to make a run for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Instead, the Fighting Irish couldn’t seem to win a close game, came up with way too many weird performances, and melted down in the second half, losing four of their last six games.
On the plus side, six of the eight losses were by a touchdown or less – MSU was by eight – and it seemed like more of a chemistry and, occasionally, a coaching problem than a talent issue. Remember, Brian Kelly came within a bomb of a Stanford field goal from coming really, really close to getting into the CFP two years ago – sometimes, teams just don’t click.
This year, the quarterback situation is a major question mark, but the O line should be outstanding and almost all of the key skill guys are back. The defense has to undergo a bit of an overhaul on the line, but most of the back seven returns intact.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish Biggest Issue
Quarterback. The D line could be the main focus over the first part of the season – especially considering the lack of a regular pass rush – but unless the quarterback play is fantastic, forget about any playoff dreams. DeShone Kizer bolted and Malik Zaire transferred, opening things up for Brandon Wimbush, true freshman Avery Davis, or anyone who can step up and produce in spring ball.
With almost all the top receivers returning – wideout was a big concern going into last year – and with Kelly’s track record for pumping out good college quarterbacks, this could all work out just fine. It just might take the entire offseason to get there.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish Biggest Positive
If this isn’t the best O line in the Kelly era, it’ll be close. The Irish caught a massive break when first round talent Mike McGlinchey chose to return for another year at left tackle, and it didn’t hurt that left guard Quenton Nelson decided to give it another run, too. Four starters are back, and while the pass protection was just okay, and the line almost never was able to get into a lather for the running game, this should be the team’s best unit out of the gate.
Really, Why Are The Notre Dame Fighting Irish Ranked Here?
Oh yeah, about that whole chemistry problem thing, that starts with Kelly. He publicly blamed the players – mostly – for the loss to Duke, and came up with a strange gameplan against NC State in a 10-3 loss in a hurricane.
The hope is for all of the close losses to go the other way this time around, but the pressure is going to be on more than ever – as if there isn’t enough to worry about as the Notre Dame head coach. Even a record flip from 4-8 to 8-4 wouldn’t be good enough, and it’s asking a whole lot to turn this into an 11-1 team that makes the playoff. It’s Notre Dame. That’s where the bar is set.