If you were expecting Notre Dame football to fade into irrelevance following the move of Brian Kelly to LSU in 2022, you were sadly mistaken.
While the Irish began the year painfully with a couple of really bad losses, including one at home to Marshall, they finished strong, winning nine games and finishing No. 18 in the Top 25.
Marcus Freeman did a solid coaching job after a rough start and now the Fighting Irish should be one of the best teams in the country in 2023, led by transfer quarterback Sam Hartman who comes over from Wake Forest and was one of the most prolific passers in the nation over the past few years.
Notre Dame also brings in the No. 11 recruiting class and has a few more instant-impact transfers on their way to South Bend this offseason.
So what are the realistic expectations for the Irish with what looks to be an improved roster?
Realistic 2023 expectations for Notre Dame football
No offense to Drew Pyne, but the upgrade that Hartman brings at quarterback is massive. He could legitimately pass for nearly 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in his first year with the Irish — he’s that good. That alone should account for a couple more wins in 2023.
The schedule, however, is tough.
I do think the defense will be better and the offense may be one of the best in the country with a talented, yet unproven, receiving corps and a potentially elite backfield. So it’s fair to expect 10-plus wins, right?
Looking at the schedule, I think Notre Dame starts the year 4-0 before facing Ohio State in South Bend. Let’s say that’s a loss, they’ll pick up road wins against an improved Duke team and Louisville under Jeff Brohm. They’ll then get a crack at USC at home on Oct. 14.
Notre Dame should beat Pitt but then winning at Clemson the following week isn’t likely. They’ll close the season with two straight wins against Wake Forest and at Stanford.
Realistically, this team can go 9-3 or 10-2 in the regular season. They get two of their three toughest games at home against USC and Ohio State so splitting that would lead to a 10-2 season.
Worst-case scenario, Notre Dame goes 8-4. Best-case, I see 10-2. Another New Year’s Six bowl isn’t too shabby.