Phew. June is finally over.
It’s probably the worst month to be a college football fan. All summer months are dry, but at least July features media days for the big conferences and the prospect of fall camp on the near horizon. The only thing I do in June is worry about injuries suffered during work outs and the potential for hometown “shenanigans” that can land a starter in the police blotter and on the sidelines in the fall.
With June, come early predictions for the season ahead. As a kid, I used to salivate as the preseason magazines hit the newsstands. Nowadays, some of the information feels outdated to the “knowledgeable” fan because of the Internet. Nevertheless, I did catch a glimpse of quarterback DeShone Kizer on the cover of the Sporting News edition. Nice!
It got me thinking: Phil Steele has the Irish at #10 preseason. ESPN’s Heather Dinich has Notre Dame in the college football playoff. Both made me think of a Lou Holtz saying: “You are never as good as you think you are and you are never as bad as you think you are. Somewhere in between reality falls.”
So is Notre Dame playoff bound? I’m buying for right now for these three reasons:
#1 Offense, Offense, Offense
The Irish offense averaged 34.2 points per game last year. I see no signs of them slowing down. Brian Kelly will have his pick at quarterback between Kizer and Malik Zaire. Both have been successful. They also return three starters on the offensive line, tight end Alize Jones, and two solid running backs in Josh Adams and Tarean Folston. What about the WR position? I think they will get a ton of production from Torii Hunter Jr., C.J. Sanders, and an increased role from Jones. I’m not concerned about this area very much at all.
Texas concerns me because it is a road game at night and the Irish embarrassed the Longhorns last year. You have six home games and really just three true road games. I really believe that Stanford and Michigan State will be a little down this year and both of those are at home. I also love the location of the bye week between Stanford and Miami. As I mentioned in a previous article, the late season trip to USC concerns me.
#3 Luck of the Irish and Brian Kelly
I truly believe that Kelly is one of the top coaches in College Football today. At 55-23 he currently carries .705 winning percentage at Notre Dame. He has also had a multitude of issues – primarily injuries – that preventing an even better winning percentage. At some point, I believe the Irish have that year where, coupled with the talent, they stay healthy enough to make a run at the final four. They almost did in 2015 in a year that featured injury after injury.
Like I said, right now I’m buying the playoffs for Notre Dame. However, it is only July 1 and playoff dreams are just that until the Irish take the field this fall.