Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2022

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM MARCH 2022 13 UNDER THE DOME Notre Dame churned out another top- 10 finish in 2021, ending the year at 11-2 and ranked No. 8 in the final Associated Press Top 25. It is the fifth consecutive top-15 ranking for the Irish in the final poll of the year and fifth straight 10-win season. That must bode well for the start of 2022, right? Indeed, it does. Way-too- early top-25 polls surfaced from various outlets in January, and Notre Dame ap- peared near the top of many of them. Here's a look at where respected an- alysts are ranking head coach Marcus Freeman's team ahead of his first full year at the helm. THE ATHLETIC (Stewart Mandel) Notre Dame rank: No. 5 What Mandel said about Notre Dame: "Quarterback Tyler Buchner likely takes over. Tight end Michael Mayer and running back Chris Tyree are proven playmakers. Revered O-line coach Harry Hiestand returns to South Bend to work with center Jarrett Pat- terson and tackle Blake Fisher. "The defense loses several key players but brings back star defensive end Isaiah Foskey and linebackers JD Bertrand and Marist Liufau, who missed the 2021 sea- son. Northwestern All-American safety Brandon Joseph was a huge pickup." SPORTING NEWS (Bill Bender) Notre Dame rank: No. 5 What Bender said about Notre Dame: "Quarterback is a fluid situa- tion with Tyler Buchner leading over Drew Pyne, but the supporting cast of running backs Chris Tyree and Logan Diggs, tight end Michael Mayer and re- ceiver Lorenzo Styles Jr. flexed in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State. "… Strength of schedule won't be a problem with road games at Ohio State and USC, a Las Vegas date with BYU and a home game against Clemson." ESPN (Mark Schlabach) Notre Dame rank: No. 6 What Schlabach said about Notre Dame: "The start of the Marcus Free- man era didn't go off as planned, as Notre Dame blew a 21-point lead in a 37-35 loss to Oklahoma State in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. The former de- fensive coordinator will grow into the position, but it's hard to ignore his en- ergy and desire to upgrade recruiting. "The defense got a boost with junior end Isaiah Foskey deciding to return, along with fifth-year seniors Jayson Ademilola and Justin Ademilola." CBS SPORTS (Dennis Dodd) Notre Dame rank: No. 7 W hat Dodd said about Notre Dame: "Marcus Freeman will kick things off in South Bend, Indiana, with a talented roster. The Fighting Irish have won at least 10 games five years in a row. Make it six with several super seniors likely to return. "The addition of 2020 All-American Brandon Joseph from Northwestern is a huge get." ATHLON SPORTS (Steve Lassan) Notre Dame rank: No. 8 What Lassan said about Notre D a m e : " M a rc u s Fre e m a n 's f i rs t full year in charge features a season opener at Ohio State, a home date ver- sus Clemson, and a road trek to USC to close out November. However, the rest of the slate is manageable for the Fighting Irish, so hitting double digits in wins should be within reach once again. Unless a transfer arrives in South Bend, Tyler Buchner will slide into the full-time quarterback spot with Jack Coan off to the NFL. "Freeman's defense held opponents to 19.7 points a game in 2021 and is likely to be a strength once again, especially with edge rusher Isaiah Foskey return- ing to South Bend, along with the addi- tion of Northwestern transfer Brandon Joseph at safety. "Buchner's development is crucial if Notre Dame wants to push for a playoff spot in '22." SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (Pat Forde) Notre Dame rank: No. 9 W hat Forde said about Notre Dame: "Marcus Freeman takes on a tough schedule, with an opener at Ohio State and games against Clemson, BYU and USC. He will need a quarterback to step up, with Tyler Buchner the leading candidate as of now. But there is talent all over the roster after years of excellent recruiting." ON3 SPORTS (Staff Report) Notre Dame rank: No. 10 W hat On3 Sports said about Notre Dame: "Another team whose new coach has a lot of talent with which to work. But there are questions about the offensive backfield." THE ACTION NETWORK (Brett McMurphy) Notre Dame rank: No. 12 McMurphy does not give any reason- ing as to why he was the only outlet on this list to rank Notre Dame outside the top 10. He also held Notre Dame outside of the top 10 in his final ballot of the 2021 season. — Tyler Horka Notre Dame A Top-10 Team In Most Way-Too-Early Top 25s Head coach Marcus Freeman's Fighting Irish team had an average listing of No. 7 in the nine way-too-early college football rankings for the 2022 season that were released in January. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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