This means only one thing: the long offseason is drawing ever so nearer to its end–just 11 more Saturdays of non-football left.
Now that these two treasure troves of information are available, it’s time to take a dive into this wealth of information and see what is in store for Notre Dame’s 2012 season.
Phil Steele – Notre Dame Forecast
|Record||“Most wins since 2006″|
|Strength of Schedule||1|
|Bowl Game||Belk Bowl (formerly Meineke Car Care Bowl)|
|Bowl Opponent||Georgia Tech (Projected Rank: 39)|
Steele’s rank of 21 places the Irish one spot ahead of Michigan. While he sees this as the best season since 2006, he doesn’t outright say the Irish will hit double digits in wins as he has in the past. The schedule, a topic that was rather hotly contested at HLS (even Fr. Sorin got involved), is cited as the main reason why Steele projects the Irish in this fashion. Reading between the lines, it appears that Steele sees this as a likely 9 win season as he doesn’t project the Irish making the BCS.
Despite the difficult schedule, Steele is still very high on the Irish–just take a look at his rankings for individual units:
|Receivers (includes TEs)||16|
|Defensive Backs||Not Ranked|
For those keeping score, that totals six of the eight total individual units ranked in Steele’s top 30. Further, Steele notes that teams with a turnover ratio of -10 or worse, like the Irish (-15), have had the same or stronger records 81% of the time since 1996.
Another interesting trend comes from Irish head coach, Brian Kelly. Kelly is the only coach in college football that exceeded Steele’s projections six years in a row–a streak that was snapped when he took over for ND in 2010.
And just who does Steele see leading the Irish in this campaign? Andrew Hendrix, backed up by Everett Golson with Tommy Rees as the third string. Grantland-X, I’m sure, will take great issue with this decision while the rest of us jump for joy.
The only other depth chart projection of note is that fair-catch specialist, John Goodman, is not one of Steele’s three starting wide receivers. Steele’s starting three WR are Robby Toma, DaVaris Daniels, and T.J. Jones. I’m not sure this projection will completely pan out, as I have a feeling Goodman will at least start over Daniels, but Daniels will still see a fair amount of playtime, possibly taking over by season’s end.
Overall, I find myself mostly in agreement with Steele’s projections. Personally though, it does seem that Steele wants to believe the Irish could pull of a double-digit win season; however, after being burned by Kelly before and what he sees as the toughest schedule in football, he has forced himself to temper such a bold prediction.
|@ Boston College||-12|
|@ Wake Forest||No Line|
*All lines are given relative to ND (e.g. -7, ND favored by 7 & +7, ND is a 7 point dog)
^ Neutral Site
If we were to go purely by these lines, Notre Dame would end up 9-3, as Phil Steele insinuates. However, when it comes to Vegas, all ND lines should be taken with a grain of salt.
While I do think the Vegas handicappers can be scarily accurate, it should be noted that all sports books handicap with one ultimate goal in mind: make sure the house wins. This means that once money starts flying in, the lines will adjust accordingly (in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the above lines have already changed). For instance, should a lot of bets be placed on Michigan +1, you would soon see Michigan become the favorite over Notre Dame. This isn’t so much a reflection on ND or Michigan, but rather the house trying to shift the odds back in their favor to prevent a huge loss.
Keeping this in mind, it should be noted that Notre Dame lines often suffer from a “homer” and/or “dumb money” effect. ND has a large fan base and it is only human nature for the majority of fans to bet with, not against, their teams. Additionally, Notre Dame is a team commonly associated with football success by a fringe college football fan/bettor, leading to bets on the Irish simply for the name recognition. Notre Dame is far from the only team to have such bets affect their lines, but, personally, I’ve found the effect more pronounced than many other teams.
I think many of the spreads above are far too high in ND’s favor (Miami, BYU, and BC in particular). The Michigan State cushion is rather generous as well and I don’t see anyway the season opens with Michigan as a dog to the Irish.
While the actual record for ND may very well be reflected in these lines, don’t let them lull you into a false sense of security for games in which ND is heavily favored. I may not think the schedule will end up being the toughest in the nation, but the Vegas lines definitely chart an easier course than even I believe the season will take.