Can Notre Dame Avoid Another NCAA Football Odds Collapse?

Posted by Alex Murphy on November 9, 2015 in

Now that the College Football betting lines calendar is well into November, Notre Dame is sitting pretty. They are ranked #8 in the AP poll, with a 7-1 record. The only loss has been on the road to the team currently ranked #1 in the CFP standings – the Clemson Tigers, and Notre Dame only lost because they had a desperation play go awry. Of course, the Irish were in a similar position at this point last year. They were 7-1, their only loss to eventual CFP participant Florida State. Why did they lose to the Seminoles? They scored a touchdown to go ahead late, only to have a very questionable offensive pass interference penalty get called. This year, Clemson stonewalled Notre Dame on a two-point conversion attempt.

Can Notre Dame Avoid Another NCAA Football Odds Collapse?

If Notre Dame had finished 11-1 last year, they would have had a strong argument for a playoff position. If they can finish 11-1 this year, they will have a similarly strong argument, particularly if Clemson can finish its steamroll to the ACC title. Last year, the Irish would lose four in a row and finish up 8-5 for the season. So why should we think that 2015 will be any different?

In 2014, the Fighting Irish were right on the edge of an injury rash when they were 7-1. Linebacker Joe Schmidt broke his ankle in a victory over Navy on November 1. Cornerback Cody Riggs fractured his foot in practice going into the Arizona State game on November 8. Defensive tackle Sheldon Day and his replacement Daniel Cage both went down in the Northwestern loss. Safety Drue Tranquil and nose tackle Jarron Jones both went down the next week against Louisville. That left the Irish with a defense that consisted of backups.

Going Through the Notre Dame Injury Plague

This year, the Irish had their injuries earlier, most spectacularly when quarterback Malik Zaire broke his ankle in the Virginia win. This could be a sign that the Irish built the depth they needed by having to use their backups so much last year. Their backup quarterback, DeShone Kizer, has undergone baptism by fire, and he has arrived. In that Virginia game, he led the Irish to an amazing comeback.

Kizer’s growth over the season has reflected the growth of the Irish offense. Many expected the offense to focus on the run, but the Irish lost one tailback to academic issues and another to an injury in Week 1 against Texas. When Zaire went down in Week 2, running back C.J. Prosise took on a great deal of the burden. However, Kizer has also come on tremendously this season, showing that the Irish are multidimensional when the running game is not firing on all cylinders.

What does Notre Dame have left this year? Saturday, they head to Pitt, which can be a dangerous game. The season ends with a game at Stanford on November 28. Winning out and finishing 11-1 would make Notre Dame extremely difficult to keep out, particularly if Clemson is sitting there with the #1 seed. Even if they don’t make the playoff, it is unlikely that they will fall apart like they did in 2014, though.