Revisiting 40 predictions from Notre Dame's 2023 preseason, highlighting an offense struggling as expected

Preseason predictions serve two functions: To boost the prognosticator’s ego when they are correct and to establish a set of expectations for the season, ones that can be referenced retroactively to assess a year’s success or lack thereof without being prisoner to the overreactionary moments that college football inately creates.

When it comes to No. 20 Notre Dame (7-3), that double-digit ranking and that third loss underscore the season’s broad disappointment, but on a more specific scale, there have been few surprises.

The Irish receivers were expected to frustrate, hence predicting one freshman would emerge and a converted running back would lead while hinting at a sophomore continuing to struggle and suggesting in a few ways the offense would fall short of hopes.

Notre Dame’s defense was seen as a strength, though more in bringing down opposing quarterbacks than hassling them into catastrophic mistakes.

Frankly, both those thoughts were spot-on, if not extreme enough, even as the below predictions were often too specific to now be considered correct.

With only two games left this regular season, let’s take a quick look back at this space’s 40 preseason predictions, taking note of the drastic surprises and shocking disappointments (if any) while emphasizing any yet to be determined.

1) Notre Dame will score 40 points against Navy. Sam Hartman’s 19-of-23 passing for 251 yards and four touchdowns led the way to a 42-3 win. (1-0)

2) Navy will fall short of its preseason win total of 6.5 wins. The Midshipmen need to win out to reach 7-5, rather unlikely. That prediction went on to say Louisville (8.5), Wake Forest (6.5) and Stanford (2.5) would also all fall short of their preseason win totals. The Cardinals and the Cardinal have topped theirs, so this should finish 2-2, a losing record by Vegas standards. (1-1)

3) Clemson will win 10 or more games, the only Irish opponent to lose just once this season. Well, every word of that was wrong, the Tigers 6-4 while Ohio State and Louisville have combined for one loss to date. (1-2)

4) The NBC broadcast will bring up the re-gilded Golden Dome when Notre Dame plays FCS-level Tennessee State in the home opener. Mostly, this served as a chance to mention the re-gilding around here. (2-2)

5) Spencer Shrader will make more than 80 percent of his field goals in 2023. Shrader would need to go 7-of-7 in the season’s final three games to turn 13-of-18 into an 80 percent rate. He is unlikely to even attempt seven field goals. (2-3)

6) North Carolina State will never have the ball with an opportunity to tie or take the lead in the fourth quarter. By the spirit of the prediction, this was correct, the Irish scoring three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win 45-24, but by the letter, the Wolfpack had the ball for four plays to start the final frame, netting seven lost yards and throwing an interception. Nonetheless, that failed possessionrenders this incorrect. (2-4)

7) Notre Dame will beat Central Michigan by more than it beats Tennessee State. 56-3 over the Tigers is more than 41-17 over the Chippewas. (2-5)

8) Necessary Peacock nod to appease the corporate overlords. (3-5)

9) Jordan Botelho will match his two sacks in the Gator Bowl when facing Ohio State. Again, the spirit held up, the senior defensive end notching one sack. But that was it. (3-6)

10) Ohio State defensive end J.T. Tuilmoloau will not record a sack against the Irish. In this instance, the spirit vs. the letter breaks the prediction’s way, Tuilmoloau single-handedly halting Notre Dame’s attempt at draining the clock in the fourth quarter, his presence forever remembered from that 17-14 tilt, but he at least did not record a sack. (4-6)

11) Junior left tackle Joe Alt will become the first offensive lineman in Irish history to enter the NFL draft after his junior season. Stay tuned.

12) Senior defensive tackle Rylie Mills will lead Notre Dame in tackles for loss. He still could, his 3.5 within reach of the team-lead of 5.5 shared by JD Bertrand, Howard Cross and Javontae Jean-Baptiste, but it is rather unlikely Mills makes that surge while none of those three add to their tallies. (4-7)

13) Gabe Rubio will have at least two sacks. Rubio missing four games did not help this cause, but the fact that he has not recorded a single tackle for loss still signals this was wrong all along. (4-8)

14) Jean-Baptiste will have at least four. The Ohio State transfer has 1.5 to date. To some extent, this stretch of predictions speaks to a common Irish theme this season: Notre Dame was criticized in September for not sacking opposing quarterbacks enough, and even to date, it has logged only 20 through 10 games. But the pressure the defensive front creates cannot be denied, playing a significant role in forcing 10 turnovers in a two-game stretch against USC and Pittsburgh. (4-9)

15) Sophomore Junior Tuihalamaka will have at least 16 tackles while classmate Joshua Burnham will make at least a dozen. Nine and 15, respectively, so a .500 prediction means a losing record. That said, keep an eye out for spring and August hype surrounding Burnham. (4-10)

16) Notre Dame will be uncomfortable at Duke. Yep. (5-10)

17) USC will be favored by at least three points when it arrives in South Bend. Shockingly, the Irish ended up the favorites that night. (5-11)

18) The Trojans will be 6-0 when they arrive at Notre Dame. And have since lost four of five. (6-11)

19) Marist Liufau will sack Caleb Williams. Late in the third quarter with the Irish up 31-13, Liufau turned a 1st-and-10 on the plus-side of the field into an eight-yard loss, immediately followed by another Notre Dame sack, effectively dooming USC’s last chance to stay within three possessions. (7-11)

20) Jack Kiser will have his hand in more turnovers than any other Irish defender. An apology may be owed to Xavier Watts. (7-12)

21) JD Bertrand will lead Notre Dame in tackles for a third-straight season, something only Manti Te’0 (2010-12) and Bob Crable (1979-81) have done in the last 50 years of Notre Dame football. Bertrand has a nine-tackle lead on fifth-year defensive tackle Howard Cross with three games to play. It feels secure. (8-12)

22) Jaylen Sneed will have at least 25 tackles and four tackles for loss, including two tackles against Navy. He showed up in the season opener as expected, but Sneed has only 10 tackles with just one for loss. His impact has been more chaotic, showing a knack for pass rushing that will be cited often next preseason as a way to solve Notre Dame’s defensive line turnover. (8-13)

23) Notre Dame will beat both Ohio State and USC. Going 1-1 in these predictions is a loss. If only the Irish had gone 11-men deep … (8-14)

24) Jaden Mickey will play a part in a pivotal turnover. A 43-yard interception returned for a touchdown in a blowout of Pittsburgh may not be seen as pivotal, but given the personal stakes of the moment, it should be. (9-14)

25) Pittsburgh will arrive in South Bend unbeaten. There is wrong, and then there is very wrong. (9-15)

26) Phil Jurkovec will throw two interceptions against his former team. He didn’t play, let’s be fair and call this a push. (9-15-1)

27) Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik will throw more touchdown passes this season than Sam Hartman does. Hold on, take a second, think about this. What do you suspect the result is?

The prediction was intended to highlight the differences in their offenses, and indeed they have been different. Notre Dame came out of the gates strongly and putting up prodigious numbers in September before struggling a bit the last month while Klubnik and the Tigers have simply struggled all season under new offensive coordinator Garrett Riley.

Anyway, they have both thrown 18 touchdowns. We’ll have come back to this.

28) Hartman will connect with sophomore receiver Tobias Merriweather for a touchdown in the first three weeks of the season where the ball travels more than 30 yards downfield through the air. Spirit vs. letter. Merriweather did make a 45-yard catch at North Carolina State, but that has been one of his few highlights this season, few moments of any note (11 catches for 224 yards and one touchdown), and he did not score on it. (9-16-1)

29) Hartman will not crack the top three of all-time career passing yardage. Correct. (10-16-1)

30) Freshman receiver Jaden Greathouse’s stats will exceed the combined numbers from his three classmates. The third classmate in mind was freshman KK Smith, not former walk-on freshman Jordan Faison, but regardless, Greathouse has 12 catches for 166 yards and three touchdowns while Rico Flores Jr. has 18 for 285 yards and one score.

Maybe if Greathouse had stayed healthy this season (nagging hamstring), this would have borne out, but instead, credit to Flores. (10-17-1)

31) Jayden Thomas will average two first downs per week. Thomas does not even have the 20 catches needed to do that, in some part due to his own bothersome hamstring. (10-18-1)

32) Chris Tyree may be Notre Dame’s WR1, finishing the year with 540 yards, five touchdowns and 35 catches. Tyree may end up short on catches, but with 23 snags for 446 yards and three touchdowns, all leading the Irish receivers, he has certainly been WR1. Call this one correct. (11-18-1)

33) Tyree will relinquish some punt return duties. Indeed, Faison. (12-18-1)

34) Faison will log a stat at some point this season. How about many, including seven catches for 102 yards and a score, thus securing a full scholarship. (13-18-1)

35) Notre Dame will not run junior tight end Mitchell Evans from behind center. Evans took one carry for two yards before his season ended with an ACL tear. Going to claim that is correct in both spirit and letter, given it was nearly a weekly occurrence last season. (14-18-1)

36) Junior running back Audric Estimé will run for 1,350 yards and more than 10 touchdowns. He would need an explosive two weeks to come near the yardage, at 988 currently, but 1,200 feels reasonable. And he has 13 touchdowns, within shouting range of the Notre Dame season record of 17, last reached by Allen Pinkett in 1984. Given that possibility and the thought of 1,200 yards this season, let’s consider this a solid prediction. (15-18-1)

37) Devyn Ford will rush for at least 150 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. Ford has become an afterthought, taking only four carries for 14 yards. (15-19-1)

38) Notre Dame will average fewer than 34.3 points per game this season. Currently at 36.8, the Irish would be at 33.3 points per game if not for five return touchdowns, but those count, too. If Notre Dame scores 43 or fewer combined points in the next two weeks, then this would still resonate, but Wake Forest’s offense is too miserable for the Irish to not have a bounty of scoring opportunities, a la against Pittsburgh. Preemptively grade this as a loss. (15-20-1)

39) Notre Dame will face Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Losing to Clemson doomed that thought. (15-21-1)

40) Negronis, sazeracs and aged rum. Correct, though never as much as wanted. (16-21-1)

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