- Notre Dame ended a streak of five straight years with double-digit wins last season.
- The Irish added a quarterback, Sam Hartman, with more career passing yards than any Notre Dame passer in history.
- Notre Dame has holes on the defensive line but returns plenty of starting talent behind it.
Growing Pains Coming to an End?
Nine wins, including a bowl victory, may not seem like anything to scoff at, but it amounts to growing pains in South Bend. Notre Dame saw longtime head coach Brian Kelly leave for LSU, and first-year coach Marcus Freeman saw the Irish take a step back in his rookie year.
The Irish snapped a streak of five straight years with double-digit wins and a combined 54-10 record with 2022’s 9-4 mark. Even worse for Notre Dame, the Irish were out of the College Football Playoff race and a national afterthought a week after Labor Day, after opening the season with a loss to Ohio State and a shocking upset loss at home against Marshall. Notre Dame added a home loss to a Stanford team that finished 3-9 and struggled against Cal and Navy.
Freeman showed he was just as unhappy with the results in his first year as Notre Dame fans and alumni, making several moves in the offseason that promise to have the Fighting Irish back on front pages across the country and fighting for a playoff bid in 2023.
The biggest move Freeman made was luring longtime Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman to Notre Dame. Hartman is entering his sixth college season and is the ACC’s all-time leader in touchdown passes. He’s a Heisman frontrunner, and his 12,967 career passing yards are more than any quarterback in Notre Dame history.
Hartman will be surrounded by the best offensive line and running game of his long college career. The Irish have potential high NFL draft picks at both tackle spots, in Joe Alt and Blake Fisher, as well as an experienced center in Zeke Correll, a fifth-year player with more starts than any other Irish lineman.
Notre Dame returns leading rusher Audric Estime, who had 920 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. Jadarian Price returns from an injury that cost him last season, and the Irish added Penn State transfer Devyn Ford, as well as some promising freshmen.
The Irish have promising receivers for Hartman to throw to, although experience is somewhat lacking after tight end Michael Mayer departed for the NFL. Jayden Thomas and Tobias Merriweather should be two big-play options, but they combined for just 26 catches and 402 yards last year. Former running back Chris Tyree converted to receiver for his fifth season, giving Hartman another experienced target.
The Irish gave up 30+ points four times last season, and Notre Dame struggled on D in the red zone. Overall, however, the defense put up solid, but not great, numbers. It should be upgraded in 2023, assuming Freeman was able to fill several of the holes left by departing players.
Notre Dame lost three defensive linemen, most notably, pass rusher Isaiah Foskey, who posted 11 sacks last year. Howard Cross III anchors the middle of the line, and Ohio State transfer Javontae Jean-Baptiste will bolster the pass rush from the edge.
Behind the line, the defense looks strong. Notre Dame’s linebacker unit returns the team’s top three tacklers in JD Bertrand, Jack Kiser and Marist Liufau. The secondary also returns most of its starting talent from last year, most notably, corner Benjamin Morrison, who had six interceptions as a freshman. Cam Hart returns from injury at the other corner, and the safeties are led by Xavier Watts and Oklahoma State transfer Thomas Harper.
Notre Dame has a new –for the Irish– quarterback and new offensive coordinator, as well as a revamped defensive line. So a few early-season games could present potential traps for Notre Dame as the team may need time to gel.
Aside from that, Notre Dame hosts Ohio State (Week 4) and USC (Week 7) and travels to Clemson (Week 10), all top-10 teams, later in the season and takes trips to face improved Duke (Week 5) and Louisville (Week 6) squads.
Our Top Pick
The Irish should be better than last season, but they could be vulnerable early, and the schedule poses a challenge, as Notre Dame’s schedule usually does. The over/under set by the top sportsbooks on the season is 8.5 wins, and the Irish would need to lose all three marquee games –Ohio State, Clemson and USC– and suffer an upset elsewhere to miss that.
For our top betting pick, we’ll put Notre Dame at nine regular season wins, with a good chance to get back to 10.
NCAAF Pick: Notre Dame Over 8½ Wins -115 at BetOnline
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.