Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2016

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 3 of 99

4 PRESEASON 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED W ith 20 starters returning, a roster loaded with NFL prospects and strong leadership within every position group, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly felt ecstatic about his team this time last year. For the most part, Kelly maximized the talents of what become an injury- laden group, finishing with 10 wins and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl while keeping his team in the College Foot- ball Playoff discussion right up to the last week of the regular season. The roster may have changed this year, but the expectations remain the same. "We don't have a conference champi- onship," Kelly said, "so everything that we look towards is to be one of those four teams selected in the playoffs." Attainable? Absolutely … but noth- ing will come easily. Gone from last season are all five team captains, six of the top seven re- ceivers, the leading rusher, seven of the eight top tacklers, not to mention the strongest voice and/or the most pro- ductive player within every position group other than quarterback. Let's take our annual shot at fore- casting the Irish fortunes for a season filled with equal parts promise and uncertainty. We said 9-3 last year and Notre Dame one-upped that projec- tion, finishing the regular season 10-2. SEPT. 4 AT TEXAS In two years under head coach Char- lie Strong — a former Notre Dame as- sistant (1995-98) — the Longhorns are only 11-14. The seat under Strong is plenty hot this season and will become hotter after the Irish deliver an impres- sive road win. (ND 31, Texas 20) SEPT. 10 VS. NEVADA Similarly to Strong at Texas, Ne- vada head coach Brian Polian — an- other former Irish assistant (2005-09) — also faces career pressure after go- ing just 18-20 in three seasons with the Wolf Pack. Irish show no mercy. (ND 38, Nevada 17) SEPT. 17 VS. MICHIGAN STATE The Spartans lost 12 starters from a team that won the Big Ten title and ap- peared in the College Football Playoff last season. Expect the winner of this slugfest to flirt with a top-five ranking and land squarely in the very early playoff picture. (ND 17, MSU 14) SEPT. 24 VS. DUKE Coming off four straight bowl games for the first time in Duke history, head coach David Cutcliffe has turned the Blue Devils into a formidable and dangerous opponent. Duke provides a scare, but superior talent wins out. (ND 28, Duke 20) OCT. 1 VS. SYRACUSE First-year Orange head coach Dino Babers will rely on a talented offense in his reclamation of a 4-8 Cuse team from last season. Babers oversaw a Bowling Green offense in 2015 that av- eraged 42.2 points per game. (ND 42, Syracuse 24) OCT. 8 AT NORTH CAROLINA STATE Don't expect a so-so Wolfpack team to offer much resistance, even at home. Of course, that's what we said about Virginia last season. This game helped NC State set a record for season-ticket sales. (ND 30, NC State 14) OCT. 15 VS. STANFORD In one of the best rivalries in college football, the Cardinal has claimed five wins in the last seven meetings with the Irish. And with only a 4-9 record against ranked opponents since 2012, Kelly has and will continue to strug- gle in these season-making games. (Stanford 24, ND 21) OCT. 29 VS. MIAMI The Irish get another tough test here after their bye when the resurgent Hurricanes and new head coach Mark Richt pay a visit. Junior Brad Kaaya will be among the best QBs Notre Dame faces all season. The Irish find a way. (ND 31, Miami 28) NOV. 5 VS. NAVY A pesky opponent that in the last nine meetings has handed Notre Dame three losses and delivered two other games settled by less than a touch- down, Navy finished last season with a program-record 11 wins and a final No. 18 AP ranking. (ND 41, Navy 24) NOV. 12 VS. ARMY Against the least heralded foe on the Irish schedule, expect Notre Dame to score early and often and claim its 15th straight win over the Black Knights. The Irish have outscored Army 494-82 during the series win- ning streak. (ND 42, Army 10) NOV. 19 VS. VIRGINIA TECH The Hokies are trying to establish a new identity after the retirement of head coach Frank Beamer and his 29- year run, while Notre Dame will enter this game focused and still in con- sideration for a playoff spot. (ND 30, Virginia Tech 13) NOV. 26 AT USC Big stakes await the Irish in the regu- lar season finale against the always tal- ented Trojans. Ranked anywhere from No. 8 to No. 25 in the preseason polls, USC will find a way at home to clip Notre Dame in another classic series matchup. (USC 30, ND 28) A final regular-season record of 10-2 will keep Notre Dame out of any Col- lege Football Playoff consideration, but it will be good enough to play in a Big Six bowl game for the second straight season. The next step is to win one of these first-tier bowl matchups for the first time in seven tries and 23 years. ✦ Ten Wins, Again, Show Program Progression UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at Head coach Brian Kelly said the Irish have their sights set on earning a spot in the College Football Playoff. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Preseason 2016