The 2020 season was a momentum-builder for Notre Dame football. The Irish joined the ACC temporarily and immediately proved that they could hang, beating Clemson in the regular season and meeting up with the Tigers in the conference title game. They lost, but still made their second College Football Playoff berth in three years.
Ian Book is now gone so Brian Kelly will have some big decisions to make during fall camp. Will he go with the young buck in Tyler Buchner or will it be Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan who may not quite have the arm talent but has more than enough experience?
The backfield will be in good hands, however, as Notre Dame has Kyren Williams back after he rushed for 1,000 yards as a freshman and Chris Tyree might just be the best backup in the nation.
Defensively, Clark Lea departed as coordinator for the Vanderbilt head coaching job, but Marcus Freeman comes over from Cincinnati as one of the brightest young stars in the coaching industry. He has been highly sought-after by major programs over the past couple of years but Kelly poached him after a dominant 2020 season.
Notre Dame has two young coordinators to complement Kelly and the momentum is building in South Bend. The talent is improving but the regression to an independent after one season as ACC members could have the Irish on the outside of the playoff conversation looking in if they don’t go undefeated or 11-1.
How will the Irish fare in 2021? Let’s take a game-by-game look with score predictions.