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16 Notre Dame

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OPPOSING COACH'S TAKE

Senior Brandon Wimbush is one of the best running quarterbacks in the country, and it all starts with him. Defenses are going to have trouble containing him. They've got the big receiver [6'4" junior Chase Claypool] who's a mismatch when he gets in the red zone.... Overall there's more consistency on the offense. The line was outstanding last year, and the guys they've got coming in are really good too. I'm impressed with their receivers. Defending them comes down to limiting the big play. Tackling in the open field, not allowing for big plays—those are things to focus on.... Safety NICK COLEMAN anchors the defense, and the unit as a whole can take a big step forward this year. Clark Lea [the defensive coordinator, who was promoted from LBs coach] is a great defensive mind. He'll do a fine job. I think anytime you can have continuity, it helps the players. They don't have to learn a new language.... Special teams coordinator Brian Polian is one of the best. They've won games based on special teams alone, and this year they've got a great kicker in Justin Yoon too.... They surprised people last year, and I don't think it was a fluke. There's a sneaky upside with this team.

BY THE NUMBERS

25

Years since the Irish had back-to-back double-digit wins (Notre Dame won 10 games in '17).

76

Touchdown percentage rate in the red zone last season for the Irish.

5-YEAR TREND

WINS

The Irish rebounded from a disastrous 2016 with a surprise 10-win season, but uncertainty on offense will keep them out of the playoff race.

[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]

15

12

9

6

3

8-5

10-3

4-8

10-3

9-3

YEAR

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018*

* SI PROJECTION

X-FACTOR

Last season running back Josh Adams rushed for 1,430 yards. Well, Adams is now with the Eagles, and replacing his yards won't be easy; the Irish also lost two starters on the offensive line. Enter DEXTER WILLIAMS, Adams's heir apparent (especially after two other backs were kicked off the team during the offseason for violating team rules). The senior has seen limited action due to injuries, but when healthy, he's been electric. As a backup in 2017, he averaged 9.2 yards per carry on 39 attempts over 10 games. With QB Brandon Wimbush's accuracy a question, Notre Dame needs consistency at running back, and Williams can provide it.

2018 SCHEDULE

SEPT. 1

MICHIGAN (15) [BIGGEST GAME][SI RANKINGS]

SEPT. 8

BALL STATE

SEPT. 15

VANDERBILT

SEPT. 22

@ WAKE FOREST

SEPT. 29

STANFORD (12) [KEY MATCHUP][SI RANKINGS]

OCT. 6

@ VIRGINIA TECH

OCT. 13

PITT

OCT. 27

NAVY

NOV. 3

@ NORTHWESTERN

NOV. 10

FLORIDA STATE (18) [KEY MATCHUP][SI RANKINGS]

NOV. 17

SYRACUSE

(AT YANKEE STADIUM)

NOV. 24

@ USC

KEY MATCHUP

BIGGEST GAME

SI RANKINGS