Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 10, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 12 of 55 SEPT. 10, 2018 13 UNDER THE DOME 800.777.1574 PROTECTING YOUR PROPERTY RIGHTS FOR 80 YEARS THEY SAID IT "The Fighting Irish had an over/under win total of 7.5 and went from four wins in 2016 to nine in 2017. This year the total is nine, and while the schedule is not easy, I have them favored in all four road games — all against teams that made a bowl last season. The toughest three games are Michigan, Stanford and Florida State, and they get all three at home. I like the over here. "The Irish are my No. 1 surprise team this year, which is a non-top 10 team that has a shot at winning the national title. Last year the Irish were No. 3 in the country and favored at Miami, but they lost two of the last four games and fell off the radar. FPI agrees with me and gives the Irish a 42 percent chance of getting to the playoff." — Phil Steele on Notre Dame heading into 2018 ( "It is what's up front that counts, and Notre Dame features strength on both lines. Linebacker Te'von Co- ney is a Butkus Award candidate on a solid defense, and cornerback Julian Love is a preseason All-American. Quarterback Brandon Wimbush inevitably will improve passing accuracy, and he remains a dangerous runner. In close games. Justin Yoon can make a difference — he was 14 of 18 on field goals and made all 55 extra points. With five preseason top-20 opponents, there can be no question about strength of schedule if the Fighting Irish go 11-1, or even 10-2. "The Irish simply have been unable to close. An 8-1 record became 9-3 in 2017, and coach Brian Kelly is 4-11 against Power Five opponents over five Novembers. "The schedule is unforgiving: No. 14 Michigan, No. 13 Stanford, at No. 17 Virginia Tech, No. 19 Florida State, at No. 15 USC. What happens if the Irish lose to the Wolverines? They would nearly be out of the race for the CFP four on Sept. 1. And they are 2-7 in the past nine games against Stanford." — The Indianapolis Star on if Notre Dame can earn a College Football Playoff berth "Smith held quarterbacks to a 22.0 passer rating, allowed zero TD catches and came away with five in- terceptions and five pass breakups last season. He was the league's best safety. There is no reason to think he'll lose that distinction in 2018." — Courtney Cronin on Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith being ranked as the No. 25 player in the NFL by ESPN "Martin has been a first- or second team All-Pro in each of his first four seasons, and he is as technically sound as any offensive lineman in the NFL. The Cowboys rewarded him in the offseason with an extension that guaranteed him $40 million." — Todd Archer on Dallas Cowboys guard Zack Martin being ranked as the No. 38 player in the NFL by ESPN OF THE WEEK ➤ "Will be at Notre Dame this weekend! Many of Lou's Lads will return as Notre Dame honors the 1988 National Championship team and celebrates a victory over Michigan! @LousLads." Former Irish head coach Lou Holtz (@CoachLouHoltz88) Aug. 28 PHOTO BY PHIL ELLSWORTH/ESPN IMAGES

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