Each year every team enters the season with question marks, regardless of what their status was the year before. For many teams, the answers just aren’t there and there is no chance for them to win a title. Only a few squads across the country have a legit shot of being the last team standing, Notre Dame being one of them. ESPN looked at twenty teams title chances, ranking them by “If’s” with the Irish having just three of them (insider), according to Bill Connelly, the second best title odds in the country. These are the three question marks the Irish need to answer in order to win the College Football Playoff.
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Jan 1, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Chris Tyree (25) scores a touchdown against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the first half during the 2022 Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
This point is hard to disagree with, the majority of questions with this years Irish team revolves around the skill position players on offense. Connelly notes that “Tommy Rees’ offense ranked 69th in success rate, due primarily to an all-or-nothing running game.” Kyren Williams was great but as we all know, he’s off to the NFL. One of Chris Tyree, Logan Diggs or Audric Estime needs to step up, magnifying the injury to Jadarian Price.
A quarterback emerges and takes less sacks
Nov 20, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) loses the ball as he is hit by Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defensive end Sylvain Yondjouen (32) in the fourth quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
This point by Connelly might be the most obvious and even more pressing than his first point. There is not a fifth-year senior with loads of experience on the roster and Tyler Buchner and Drew Pyne each showed flashes last year without lots of consistency. The expectation is that Buchner is the one that steps up, but he needs to take a massive leap in the passing department. Connelly is correct in saying that “title contention requires consistency and better avoidance of negative plays” from the quarterback.
Secondary reins in the glitches
Chris O’Leary coaching up the secondary.
This is Connelly’s first point that I don’t completely agree with. There were some bumps in the road but overall the secondary did well in my eyes. D.J. Brown really stepped up, Ramon Henderson and Xavier Watts got much needed experience while the transfer of Brandon Joseph covers some of the loss of Kyle Hamilton. While there should be some potential for mix-ups early in the season due to Marcus Freeman not calling the defense, it’s hard to believe that this won’t be a strength.