How Many Wins Will Notre Dame Football Have? Forecasting The Irish's Record
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How Many Wins Will Notre Dame Football Have? Forecasting The Irish’s Record

There's a lot that goes into a college football season.

Hours spent on the practice fields. Hours spent in the weight room. Hours spent studying film. Hours upon hours of sacrifice. In the end, most coaches and players deem it all to be worth it. The experiences last a lifetime.

So too, though, do the two numbers next to a team's name at the end of the year.

Everything a team does culminates in a win/loss record. The BlueandGold.com staff finishes up a week of roundtable debates by answering the following question: What will Notre Dame's record be after the 2021 regular season?

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Mike Singer: I predicted an 11-1 record for Notre Dame in our 2021 Football Preview issue of Blue & Gold Illustrated this summer, and I’m sticking with that. To be honest, I don’t know where the loss will occur. But between non-home games against Florida State, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech and Stanford and hosting Cincinnati, USC and North Carolina, I think there will be a loss somewhere.

This regular season schedule doesn’t have a game going into where Notre Dame is clearly the underdog. In the past couple of seasons, Notre Dame was not expected to defeat either Georgia or Clemson (before Trevor Lawrence was ruled out due to COVID-19). The Irish are considered a slight underdog against Wisconsin right now, but when looking at the contest in the preseason, it seems like a coin-flip. Otherwise, the only other game Notre Dame isn’t favored in is North Carolina, as the early odds are that it’s a pick-em.

Predicting 11-1 is favorable for the Irish, as my colleagues in our aforementioned Football Preview see a two-loss team. But Brian Kelly’s teams get up for lesser opponents and rarely see an “upset special,” even if it means getting an ugly win. I like this Notre Dame team to win 11 games.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish football head coach Brian Kelly
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is searching for a fifth straight double-digit win season. (Bill Panzica)

Patrick Engel: I have picked 10-2 previously. I’ll stick with it. ESPN’s recently released FPI projections are similar to my thinking.

FPI has Notre Dame’s projected win total at 9.1 despite it pegging the Irish as a favorite in every game. Early betting lines have the Irish as underdogs only to Wisconsin. Some sports books see the Oct. 30 meeting with North Carolina as a pick ‘em, while others have Notre Dame as a small favorite. It’s plausible the Irish are a favorite at kickoff of every game.

No matter if the Irish are favored in all 12 or 10, they will be playing a few coin-flip games. FPI points that out despite its formula giving the Irish the edge. But it still predicts two losses. Notre Dame is good enough to win most of its toss-up games or close games. All of them? That’s hard to do. I can’t pinpoint one game I’m sure they’ll lose, but you can look at several to 1) see how a defeat could happen and 2) have a hard time picturing an Irish blowout win.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish football quarterback Jack Coan
Wisconsin graduate transfer Jack Coan is competing for Notre Dame’s starting quarterback job in 2021. (Jake Kocorowski)

Tyler Horka: Notre Dame doesn't rebuild. It reloads. But if there was ever a time in which the Irish leaned more to the latter, then it's this season. I'll play devil's advocate and predict a 9-3 season for head coach Brian Kelly and company.

Before panic sets in and Irish fans feel as if the world is falling because the double-digit win threshold has not been met for the first time since 2016, remember that the 10th win in the season that started the streak came in a bowl game. That's what will likely happen in 2021, too.

Why? It feels bringing in graduate transfer quarterback Jack Coan from Wisconsin was nothing more than a bridge between the program's all-time leader in wins, Ian Book, and whoever the long-term starting quarterback will be after this season. Sophomore Drew Pyne? True freshman Tyler Buchner? Maybe even junior Brendon Clark, who has three years of eligibility remaining? It could be any of them. One thing is certain, though: it won't be Coan. It can't be Coan.

This is a one-and-done type of situation for the former Badger. I'm not saying Coan can't lead Notre Dame to a 10-2 regular season record. The schedule shapes up favorably for that with seven home games, four true road games and a neutral site clash against Wisconsin at Soldier Field. I'm simply saying the circumstances are ripe for Notre Dame to drop down from its College Football Playoff level and lose a tossup or two as well as a game or two it was supposed to win.

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