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Leftovers & Links: Vegas pinpoints two key games in Notre Dame’s win total Over/Under

Dan Wolken joins the show to discuss the dynamics of emerging super-conferences, Notre Dame's place in the discussion and the future of name, image and likeness.

Vegas disagrees. The difference is slight, but it is a disagreement, nonetheless.

This space staked its 2022 projection of Notre Dame’s win total Over/Under at 9.0, though couching it with “8.5 would be understandable.” And the bookmakers settled on that latter number.

To be precise, this space’s exact expected wins was 8.817, hence rounding up to 9.0.

Win totals have been on the market for more than a month now, and the initial 8.5 figure for the Irish has not wavered. Clearly, gamblers agree with the bookmakers. The odds skew toward the Over — increasingly so since first checking in on them in early July — suggesting it is more likely Marcus Freeman’s debut season as a head coach will feature a 9-3 regular season than an 8-4 showing.

PointsBet leans as far into that 9-3 likelihood as any widely-accessible sportsbook, but it does not come off the 8.5 mark. Again, that is understandable, but pinpointing the difference in opinion sheds some light on widely-held expectations for Notre Dame in 2022.

The difference comes down to two games. The Irish are 14.5-point underdogs in the season opener at Ohio State in 40 days, and in eight of the other 11 games, Notre Dame is or will be a healthy favorite.

Then there is BYU, a neutral site game (Las Vegas) in early October. Yours truly expected the Irish to be “favored slightly” and offered up a 66.7 percent probability of an Irish victory for win totals purposes. Vegas — the sportsbooks, not the host site for this context — largely agrees, with Notre Dame currently a 6.5-point favorite. Turn that spread into a win probability and it equals approximately 73.1 percent, not that much of a difference from that 66.7 percent.

If anything, obviously, that difference would boost the Irish win total.

But not when the bookmakers look at contests against Clemson and USC as more of uphill climbs than our May ponderings did. Both of those were viewed as toss-ups with 50 percent win probabilities. For the season finale in Los Angeles, nothing could be said but, “Who knows about USC.”

Instead, Notre Dame is a field-goal underdog to both, an implied win probability of about 39 percent.

Take that 0.22 fewer expected wins, and even if including that BYU bump, that projected 8.817 expected wins falls enough to justify rounding down to an Over/Under of 8.5.

If Freeman goes 0-3 against Ohio State, Clemson and USC, he may need the inverse of the Fiesta Bowl faceplant to redeem the season. Going 9-3 is hardly something to scoff at, and it would certainly reward those who back Notre Dame in this conversation, but the only quality win among those nine would likely be an independent BYU in a neutral site game, not quite something Irish fans are likely to hang their proverbial hats on.

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