2020 Notre Dame Football Preview

Digital Edition

Blue & Gold Illustrated: 2020 Notre Dame Football Preview

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Page 135 of 163

134 ✦ BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2020 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY ANDREW MENTOCK L ast year, Notre Dame posted a dou- ble-digit win total and finished at least No. 12 in the final Associated Press poll a third straight season for the first time since Lou Holtz was at the helm in the early 1990s. Three of the top national college football preview magazines are projecting the 2020 Fighting Irish to continue that trend for a fourth consecutive campaign. Here is what those publications had to say about the upcoming season: ATHLON SPORTS Athlon Sports College Football Preview projects Notre Dame to finish the 2020 regu- lar season with a 10-2 record and as the No. 9 team in the nation, which the publication acknowledges falls short of the programs na- tional championship or bust standard. "Nothing short of a playoff berth — essen- tially, no more than one loss — will achieve the newly established expectation at Notre Dame." Athlon has Clemson as the No. 1 team in the land and, for the sixth season in a row, par- ticipating in the College Football Playoff. The Tigers are considered the lone top-10 team on Notre Dame's 2020 schedule. Two other opponents appear in the top 25: No. 12 Wisconsin and No. 19 USC. These are teams Notre Dame must vanquish if the Fight- ing Irish hope to place in the top 10. "'Really good' will require victories over Wisconsin in Green Bay in October and a home conquest of Clemson in November — while adding to a three-game winning streak over USC in the regular-season finale," the magazine noted. No. 30 Louisville, No. 39 Pittsburgh and No. 45 Wake Forest rank among the top 50 teams in the land, with No. 54 Stan- ford, No. 71 Navy, No. 74 Arkansas, No. 75 Georgia Tech and No. 102 Western Michigan rounding out the weaker half of the schedule. Athlon lists offensive line and quarter- back as the top components of the team, which the publication ranks nationally as the No. 5 and No. 8 units among their position groups, respectively. "The Irish are pinning the rest of their hopes on six returning regulars along the offensive line," the magazine added, "led by seniors Robert Hainsey, Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg, and ju- nior Aaron Banks." Quarterback Ian Book is considered the No. 24 player in college football heading into the 2020 season, but rover Jeremiah Owusu- Koramoah (second team) is the sole Notre Dame player to make one of Athlon's three All-America squads. Outside of wondering if the Fighting Irish can defeat the top teams on their schedule, Athlon also ponders in its "15 Things to Watch in 2020" the existential question of "how good is good enough" for Notre Dame? The section highlights that while a 33-6 record in three years in a momentous feat, the program has lost nine straight games against opponents that finished in the AP top 10. "The 2019 team dropped its two prove-it dates at Georgia and Michigan," the magazine stated. "The 2020 edition, led by steady QB Ian Book, should get its opportunities to flip the script against Wisconsin and Clemson." STREET & SMITH'S Notre Dame's lowest preseason ranking came from Street & Smith's, which predicts the Irish to finish at No. 11. The magazine projects the Irish to square off against Oregon in the Orange Bowl. In total, four 2020 regular-season opponents also made the top 25: No. 1 Clemson, No. 12 Wisconsin, No. 18 USC and No. 20 Louisville. According to Street & Smith's, quarterback Ian Book will be the team's linchpin. "Book, 20-3 as a starter, racked up nearly 3,600 total yards and 34 touchdown passes against just six interceptions last season," the publication noted. "With talented backup Phil Jurkovec transferring to Boston College, the path is clear for Book, who has 57 career touchdown passes, to move past Jimmy Clau- sen and [Tommy] Rees and trail only Brady Quinn (95) in that category in Irish history." The main issue for Book will be building chemistry with the offensive replacements for wide receivers Chase Claypool and Chris Finke and tight end Cole Kmet, with Kmet and Claypool having been second-round picks. Defensive coordinator Clark Lea also re- ceived some praise from the publication. "Coordinator Clark Lea's first two defenses in South Bend ranked among the top 13 nation- Preseason All-Americans DL Daelin Hayes — Street & Smith's (second team) LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah — Athlon (second team) T Liam Eichenberg — Lindy's (second team) Irish Players In Lindy's National Positional Rankings Player Rank G Tommy Kraemer 5 OLB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah 5 T Liam Eichenberg 6 S Kyle Hamilton 6 QB Ian Book 7 C Jarrett Patterson 8 STAYING NEAR THE TOP Once again, Notre Dame is considered a top-12 program in college football Fifth-year senior left tackle Liam Eichenberg was named to Lindy's preseason All-America squad. PHOTO BY MIKE MILLER

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