Is it playoff or bust for Notre Dame football in 2024?

Oct 14, 2023; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman
Oct 14, 2023; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman / Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Freeman is starting to figure it out. Not only in the third-year Notre Dame football coach recruiting at a high level, but he's also shown on the field that his teams can compete.

Take 2022 for instance. His Irish started the season horribly and it took a minute for him to record his first win as head coach, but they finished strong and went 9-4. Freeman went through some growing pains but then started to figure it out and the Irish were like a well-oiled machine at the end of the season.

And that carried over into 2023 as Notre Dame had a couple of hiccups (the Ohio State game being one major hiccup) and it still managed to win 10 games, including the Sun Bowl over a very solid Oregon State team. Notre Dame competed at an elite level for most of the year and it was one yard away (literally) from beating Ohio State.

Fresh off a 10-win season, Notre Dame now has a chance to make the playoff as one of the 12 best teams in the country and chances are, the Irish will be ranked highly to begin the year.

Is it playoff or bust for the Irish behind their head coach who has shown improvement each year?

I'd honestly say yes. Notre Dame is bringing in the No. 8 recruiting class in the country along with Riley Leonard at quarterback. They have an impressive crop of transfers coming in and they have a schedule that should allow for another double-digit win season.

Starting off with Texas A&M on the road won't be easy, but the Irish are the better team -- can they overcome the tough road environment? They then play NIU and then at Purdue before getting three straight home games against beatable opponents and then they face Georgia Tech on the road. A matchup with Navy follows before a second bye and then they have their toughest game of the season against Florida State. Fortunately, that's at home and should be a win.

Following Florida State, it's Virginia and Army before ending the year at USC -- and Caleb Williams isn't walking through that tunnel.

This is a schedule that should at worst yield 9-10 wins. Every single game on the slate is winnable and Notre Dame will probably be favored in 11 out of the 12 games. Winning the games they should win, the Irish should expect a playoff berth. Unfortunately, though, they can't get that coveted bye with a top-four seed because they refuse to join a conference.

But yes, 2024 is playoff or bust for this program.

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