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40 Predictions Updated: Notre Dame ahead of most preseason expectations

Hear from head coaches Brian Kelly and Jim Harbaugh, as Chris Simms and Ahmed Fareed reveal the keys to Saturday night's matchup.

By most any metric, Notre Dame has played three of the season’s five stiffest challenges, falling to only one. One way or another, the Irish were expected to lose to three of Georgia, Virginia, USC, Michigan and Stanford. At this point, three losses from that group is not only the maximum possible, but that would also be a massive disappointment for Notre Dame. A win at Ann Arbor next weekend would put the Irish into the Playoff conversation in November, a realistic goal for every season.

If Notre Dame has gotten ahead of that broad projection, how has it done in terms of the micro predictions offered by this space in the preseason? Not all are able to be gauged yet, but of those that are …

1-20: Will Notre Dame go undefeated at home?
21-40: Notre Dame will return to the Cotton Bowl, not the Playoff

1) One of sophomore quarterback Phil Jurkovec’s initial set of plays at Louisville will include a designed one as an attempt by offensive coordinator Chip Long to ease Jurkovec into a rhythm.Verdict: Because Jurkovec’s first snap against New Mexico was a 52-yard completion to sophomore receiver Braden Lenzy to the 6-yard line, there was not much space to utilize his legs until a couple pre-snap penalties and three rushes for loss knocked the Irish back to the 24-yard line. At that point, though, Jurkovec took a designed draw for 23 yards. Incorrect venue aside, let’s count that as correct. (1-0)

2) The season will fly by … after it starts impossibly slowly.Verdict: Considering this idle week has flown by, correct. (2-0)

3) Notre Dame will beat New Mexico and former Irish head coach Bob Davie.Verdict: Even if Davie was not on the sideline, the Lobos loss goes on his official record. (3-0)

4) New Mexico’s season will go badly.Verdict: Sure, the original prediction went into further depth than that, and Davie could still turn things around from a 2-4 start, but this is heading one direction. (4-0)

5) Junior kicker Jonathan Doerer will miss two field goals to the right, his first misses of the season.Verdict: At 6-of-7 on the season, Doerer’s lone miss came against Virginia, pushing it to the … left. (4-1)

10) ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be in Athens on Sept. 21.Verdict: Some predictions are not so bold. (5-1 with four very much to be determined.)

12) Virginia will be ranked on Sept. 28.Verdict: At No. 19, no less. (6-1)

13) No other Notre Dame home opponent will be ranked this season.Verdict: Sure, three more have yet to arrive in South Bend, but with USC unranked last weekend, this one is rather safely secured. (7-1)

14) Two opposing head coaches will be fired this season.Trend: Both Davie and Trojans head coach Clay Helton have hung on thus far, but it’s only a matter of time.

15) The Irish will break 50 against Bowling Green.Verdict: 52 and yet, Notre Dame still did not score as many points as bookmakers expected. (8-1)

16) The Irish will go undefeated at home.Trend: On track.

Tommy Tremble Notre Dame

LOUISVILLE, KY - SEPTEMBER 02: Notre Dame Fighting Irish tight end Tommy Tremble (24) dives into the end zone for a touchdown during the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Louisville Cardinals on September 2nd 2019, at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, KY. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

20) Sophomore Tommy Tremble will finish no lower than No. 2 among tight ends in both catches and yards, despite not playing since August of 2017.Trend: It is too soon to count this yet, but it would need a drastic turn to not be correct. Tremble has nine catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns, far ahead of junior Brock Wright’s two receptions for 45 yards. If nothing else, this validates August hype of Tremble and should be filed away for 2020 possibilities. If junior Cole Kmet heads to the NFL, Tremble will be positioned to slide into his role. If Kmet returns, Long will have a full offseason to experiment with two tight end sets.

21) Senior receiver Chase Claypool will lead Notre Dame in all three receiving categories.Trend: Again, too soon to tally, but Claypool does lead with 27 catches for 394 yards and four touchdowns, though he can pretty much give up any hopes of cracking 1,000 yards, a rarity in an Irish uniform.

22) Senior running back Tony Jones will have more rushing attempts than junior Jafar Armstrong.Trend: 80 carries against three, but a healthy Armstrong could make this interesting in November.

23) Freshman running back Kyren Williams will have more than 21 rushes for 81 yards.Verdict: Williams is expected to preserve a year of eligibility after appearing in four games and taking four carries for 26 yards. (8-2)

24) A Notre Dame running back will lose a fumble for the first time since November of 2015.Trend: Not yet, but there are six games to go.

25) The Irish will average between 182.6 and 207.6 rushing yards per game, the 2018 and 2015 averages, respectively.Trend: Currently at 188.5, this should lean in the correct direction given the quantity of quality defenses faced (Georgia, Virginia) compared to awaiting (Michigan).

28) Neither Manchester City nor Liverpool will lose in Premier League play before Thanksgiving.Verdict: The former has two losses. (8-3)

29) Senior defensive end Julian Okwara will lead Notre Dame in sacks.Trend: Okwara’s four sacks lead classmate Khalid Kareem’s 3.5. Both should more than double those numbers by season’s end.

30) Kareem will notch more than 7.5 sacks, his career total entering the season.Trend: 3.5 is a strong enough start to believe in the accuracy of this claim.

31) Sophomore defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola will finish with more tackles for loss than junior starter Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa.Trend: Checking the stat sheet, the expectation was this would be very much off-base, yet Ademilola has 2.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, ahead of Tagovailoa-Amosa’s two. The latter has played increasingly well this season, and the accuracy of this prediction could fall because of that.

32) Sophomore end Justin Ademilola will make a pertinent tackle for loss after two half-tackles for loss in the Cotton Bowl boosted him entering the offseason.Trend: Ademilola has appeared in only two games thus far, making two tackles. He could emerge during the idle week and make a late-season push, but his chances this year are dwindling.

33) Junior linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah will notch multiple interceptions.Trend: He is second on the team with 37 tackles, but no interceptions to date.

34) Freshman safety Kyle Hamilton will have at least five pass breakups, matching the entire position group’s output in 2017.Trend: Hamilton has only two pass breakups through six games … both interceptions. Let’s keep the faith.

35) At least eight Irish defenders will intercept a pass.Trend: Along with Hamilton, Alohi Gilman, Jalen Elliott and Shaun Crawford have all picked off an opposing passer. Paging Troy Pride?

Virginia v Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, INDIANA - SEPTEMBER 28: Alohi Gilman #11 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish intercepts a pass intended for Hasise Dubois #8 of the Virginia Cavaliers during the second half at Notre Dame Stadium on September 28, 2019 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Getty Images

36) A safety will lead Notre Dame in tackles.Trend: Gilman clings to a one-tackle lead at 38, which falls well short of expecting the more specific thought in this prediction of him reaching 100 tackles.

37) The Irish will break the school record of 37.6 points per game.Trend: Notre Dame currently averages 39.2 points per game. Whether that should rise or fall is a tough guess, since the Irish have faced their two toughest opposing defenses already this season, but also their two weakest.

38) Notre Dame will give up fewer points per game than in any season since 2012’s title-game run, when that mark fell to 12.77. The next-lowest average in that stretch was 2018’s of 21.5.Trend: This should come in comfortably given the Irish are currently giving up only 16.8 points per game.

39) Notre Dame will finish in the top 10 of the College Football Playoff rankings, but not in the Playoff.Trend: Lose, at most, only one more game and this should prove accurate.

40) The Irish will head to the Cotton Bowl.Trend: Stay tuned, and keep an eye on Appalachian State.