Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview 2022: Season Prediction, Breakdown, Key Games, Players

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Notre Dame season with what you need to know and keys to the season.

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview
Marcus Freeman: 0-1, 1st year at Notre Dame
2021 Preview, Overall: 11-2
2022 Notre Dame Preview
Offense, Defense Breakdown | Keys To The Season
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Notre Dame Top 10 Players | Notre Dame Schedule

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview 2022

Find anyone who can say anything bad about Marcus Freeman.

The players were jacked when he was announced as the new head coach.

The fans were jacked, the school was jacked, and apparently, recruits are jacked. And that’s the crazy part about all of this.

Brian Kelly was really, really good at winning and restoring the national prominence of the place, and yet Notre Dame couldn’t be more ecstatic about the refresh – maybe bailing for LSU when the team was still in the mix for the College Football Playoff had something to do with that. And now …

Everyone around the Notre Dame program appears to be having … fun?

It’s buying early on the stock – Notre Dame isn’t supposed to be a place for a first time head coach to cut his teeth – but that’s a testament to just how much of a rock star Freeman has the potential to be.

And now comes the hard part. 1) Patience. 2) Kelly really was successful, and good luck with replicating what he did on the field.

You think it’s easy to come up with five double-digit win seasons in a row? Lou Holtz didn’t do that. No Notre Dame coach ever did – partly because they didn’t play double-digit games back in the day.

The program got really, really close to massive things under Kelly, but it kept hitting a hard ceiling – there’s no shame in having an Alabama and Clemson problem over the last few years.

Now it’s up to Freeman to go from being the hot head coaching prospect everyone likes, to the one who can take Notre Dame that one extra step and turn a College Football Playoff-caliber team into a true national title contender.

He’s young – just 36 – appears to have the right mix of personality and talent to be the exact fit for the new era of college football and all its changes, and the guy can recruit, recruit, recruit.

But again, patience – to a point.

All the Freemania was tempered a wee bit after Oklahoma State roared back from down 21 to take the Fiesta Bowl in the new guy’s first shot to show what he could do, and the Welcome To The Job present is a trip to his alma mater, Ohio State, to kick things off in 2022. So after all the light grumbling settles about how he started his era 0-2, then it’s on.

There are a whole lot of tough games on the schedule, but the Irish might be favored in each of the last 11 – with the possible exceptions of the home game against Clemson and road date at USC – and he’s supposed to win all of them.

It’s going to take a little bit for all of the recruits to make an impact, and it’s going to take a little bit for the first time head coach to settle into the job, but he’ll have until ten minutes after the Ohio State game and then it had better be onward to victory the rest of the way.

This team is too good, this program is too great, and this head coach is too promising to expect anything less than for everything to keep on humming.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview 2022: Offense, Defense NEXT

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview 2022: Offense

Tommy Rees is still around as the John and Bobbie Ariotta Family Offensive Coordinator, but the attack will change around a wee bit. Last year’s offense was okay, but the pass protection wasn’t great, there wasn’t any running from QB Jack Coan, and outside of the 551 yards put up in the ill-fated Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State, the attack didn’t work in the two games against great defenses – Wisconsin and Cincinnati.

But considering Coan is done and the other top skill guys are gone, this is hardly a bad situation. The line should be better, and the other parts should fill in starting with …

Tyler Buchner. He’s not Coan throwing the ball, but Coan wasn’t Buchner running it. It’ll be a bit more like the Ian Book era of playmaking from the position, only Buchner has the upside to be a bit more explosive and dangerous. He’s the starter, and Drew Pyne is a solid backup.

Leading yardage receiver Kevin Austin is done, but the main man is back for one more year before being someone’s big first round get. Michael Mayer caught 71 passes for 840 yards and seven scores, and while he might not have quite the same big stats with slightly less emphasis on the passing game, he should be the best tight end in the country.

Almost all the other key receivers from last year return with sophomore Lorenzo Styles the likely breakthrough wideout of the bunch.

The running game was fine, but it needs to be a lot more effective. The offensive line powered away for around five yards per carry in 2019 and 2020, and last year it was held to 4.1 yards per pop. It doesn’t have to crank up over 200 yards per game like the 2020 version did, but it was the worst season for the ground game since 2010. That’s about to change.

The offensive line was supposed to go through a rough reboot. The plus side was that the line was loaded with a ton of talent. The negative was that it was all young, but the star power is going to be there starting with veteran Jarrett Patterson at center – assuming he’s healthy after an offseason injury – and last year’s super-recruit Blake Fisher at one tackle.

Leading rusher Kyren Williams is gone, but Buchner was the second leading rusher even in his limited work, and junior Chris Tyree should be ready for a monster season as the lead back.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview 2022: Defense

Head coach Marcus Freeman knows defense, and new defensive coordinator Al Golden definitely knows D – especially linebackers – coming in after working with the Cincinnati Bengals for the last few years.

Last year’s defense wasn’t the killer of relatively recent seasons, but overall it was terrific. There were meltdowns – giving up over 600 yards to Oklahoma State in the bowl loss was rough – but it all kicked in over the final month of the regular season when the D was playing as well as any in the country.

The secondary will be terrific with NFL-caliber parts. Cam Hart and Clarence Lewis are good-tackling corners, there’s room to play round with the veteran safeties, and coming in from Northwestern to ease the loss of Kyle Hamilton is Brandon Joseph – if he’s not the best safety in college football, he’s close.

Top pass rusher Isaiah Foskey is back, there’s good pressure from from the Ademilolas – Jayson on the inside and Justin on the end – and there should be a decent rotation at all four spots. This isn’t a massive bunch – it would be nice to have a giant brick wall on the nose – but they can all move.

The linebackers should be the stars considering the coaching talent in place. JD Bertrand led the team with 101 tackles – he’ll likely work in the middle – and Jack Kiser is a good all-around hybrid type who came up with two pick sixes along with 45 stops.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats NEXT

Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats

Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Key To The 2022 Offense

The pass protection has to be a whole lot better. 

It was one of the most underappreciated parts of the Brian Kelly era – his offensive lines were phenomenal.

Last year’s front five was supposed to undergo an overhaul, and everyone knew that going into the season.

There were going to be problems with so many new parts being thrown into the mix, but it was all with the idea that the great young prospects – like OTs Blake Fisher and Joe Alt – were going to be part of a dominant group over the coming years. Injuries played a part in all of this.

Even so, it still wasn’t a plus that the offense gave up a whopping 35 sacks, 82 tackles for loss, and sputtered at times for the nation’s 83rd-best running game.

Now with four starters back up front, good depth, and more mobility than Jack Coan under center, the line has to be a positive.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Key To The 2022 Defense

Keep on taking the ball away.

Notre Dame’s defense has been terrific over the last several years, but any mistakes and concerns were often erased by lots and lots of takeaways.

The Irish have come up with 20 or more takeaways in four of the last five years, and they probably would’ve hit the mark in the 2022 outlier with two fewer games they normally would’ve played.

Last year’s defense took things up another notch with 25 takeaways thanks to a steady two or more in nine of the 13 games.

The Irish were 8-1 when coming up with a two or more takeaways – the lone loss was the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State. Before that they won 35 straight games – going back to the 2017 early heartbreaker against Georgia – when they forced multiple turnovers.

Nothings stops. Marcus Freeman is a defensive head coach who’ll keep this team active.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Key Player To The 2022 Season

QB Tyler Buchner, Soph.
Drew Pyne might see time here and there, but this is Buchner’s gig as long as he can stay healthy.

He’s a different kind of quarterback than Jack Coan was – and he’s a bit of a different type of quarterback for Notre Dame. He can throw, but he’s most dangerous on the move as an all-around playmaker.

No, he won’t throw for 3,150 yards and 25 touchdowns and just seven picks like Coan did, but the former starter finished last year with a net -100 rushing yards. The new guy might end the season with well over 500 if everything goes right.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Key Transfer

S Brandon Joseph, Sr.
Seriously, how do you replace a talent like Kyle Hamilton at safety?

You go get one who might be a top ten overall NFL Draft pick like Joseph.

The former Northwestern Wildcat is a two-time All-American who came up with 46 tackles and six interceptions in 2020, and followed it up with 79 stops and three interceptions in 2021.

He’s not the physical force of nature Hamilton was, but he’s smooth as silk, gets all over the field, and shhhhhhhhhhhhh …

He might be better than 14.

Notre Dame Key Game To The 2022 Season

Clemson, Nov. 5
Just assume the opener against Ohio State is a loss on the road, and if it’s not, it’s found money.

After that, going to North Carolina and Syracuse are concerns, and BYU will be dangerous in Las Vegas, but there’s no excuse to not rip though the rest of the slate until that regular season finale at USC.

Except for the date with Clemson.

This is a better Tiger team than last year’s version, but Notre Dame should be as jelled as it’s going to be by early November when South Bend is rocking and rolling.

Let’s just say the quiet part out loud. Beat Clemson, and anything less than 11-1 with the College Football Playoff in the discussion won’t be okay.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish: 2021 Fun Stats

– Penalties: Opponents 90 for 705 yards – Notre Dame 73 for 642 yards
– Red Zone TDs: Notre Dame 33-of-50 (66%) – Opponents 18-of-47 (38%)
– 2nd Quarter Scoring: Notre Dame 154 – Opponents 73

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Season Prediction, What Will Happen NEXT

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Season Prediction, What Will Happen

Talent-wise, there’s no reason why this can’t and shouldn’t be another double-digit win season overall.

The coaching staff built up around Marcus Freeman is terrific, Freeman himself will be fine in time, and now it’s just a question of being able to handle the home games and not misfiring against the good teams the Irish should be able to beat.

And that’s the thing about the latter part of the Brian Kelly era – other than the 4-8 outlier of 2016; just blow that season off for the purposes of this rant. There might have been ugly playoff losses, but his teams never, ever lost to anyone that wasn’t good.

Look at the past few seasons. The losses came last year to Cincinnati and an Oklahoma State team that should’ve won the Big 12 title. In 2020 the losses were to Clemson in the ACC Championship and in the CFP against eventual national champion Alabama.

The 45-14 loss at Michigan in 2019 wasn’t like losing to – say – Virginia, and if you take out that 2016 clunker, you have to go all the way back to 2014 in a wild 43-40 thriller against Northwestern for the last time the program lost to a team that didn’t win at least nine games.

In other words, Marcus Freeman, it’s okay to lose at Ohio State. It’s going to be okay to drop the game against Clemson, and it might even be fine to lose the season finale at USC, but that’s it for the games on the slate that would get any semblance of a free pass.

Set The Notre Dame Fighting Irish Regular Season Win Total At … 9.5

Check out more ND at FightingIrishWire.com

At North Carolina is dangerous. Win it.

At Syracuse is going to be a hornet’s nest. Win it.

BYU in Las Vegas is going to be tougher than anyone believes – win that, too.

To up the pressure ante, let’s just say it – if Brian Kelly was still the head coach, this is a ten-win regular season, minimum.

Because Freeman and the changes are X factors, assume a loss at Ohio State to start – that would be put in the lean L column no matter who was the head coach – and then it comes down to at least splitting against Clemson and USC, and not missing against anyone else.

Nine regular season wins and a bowl victory would be a good first year, 11 wins overall would be great, and 12-1 is a reasonable goal if everything breaks right.

2022 College Football Schedules: All 131 Teams

Story originally appeared on College Football News