Top 25 Prediction(s)

Our season predictions series concludes with a comment on touchdown tosses, a nod to 2012's final record, the continuation of two terrible streaks, and the satisfying end of another.

To read the first 20 predictions, click the links below:

Predictions 1-3 include expected pass defense struggles, touchdowns scored by Cierre Wood, and the possibility of a 4-0 start in September

Predictions 4-7 detailed likely home defeat for the 14th straight season, a new interception king, a noticeable surge in rushing attempts for 2012, and fewer interceptions thrown by the Irish quarterbacks.

No.'s 8-10 included the likelihood Irish fans will again see three quarterbacks take meaningful snaps, a record-setting swan song by Tyler Eifert, and the team's projected record after nine games.

Predictions 11-13 focused on the team's third-down defense, its third-down offense, and Manti Te'o's likely finish among program legends in tackles-for-loss.

Over the weekend we featured No.'s 14-16 that included the season's lowest scoring slugfest, the squad's sack-master, and the likelihood of better red zone play -- but with fewer total touchdowns scored, this fall.

Predictions No. 17-20 projected the season's highest scoring game, the number of times the defense would yield 30+ points, how many games would be played "close and late" and which freshmen might see the field in 2012.

#21 -- An Unfortunate Streak Continues

Not since 2006 has a Notre Dame football team won more than four consecutive contests. That Brady Quinn-led squad did not suffer defeat from Week Four (a blowout loss vs. Michigan) until Week 12 (a blowout loss at USC), winning eight straight in between.

Since, the program has enjoyed three separate four-game winning streaks: the final two games of 2007 coupled with the first two games of 2008; the oft-reference four-game streak to concluded Brian Kelly's first season in 2010; and two separate four-game winning streaks last year, the first brought ND from 0-2 to 4-2; the second from 4-3 to 8-3 before ending the season with consecutive losses.

Navigating a 2012 slate wrought with land mines will allow for a similar streak: look for the Irish to win four straight at some point in 2012, but to fail to extend to five or more for a sixth straight season.

#22 -- And So Does This Trend...

Back-to-back defeats. It was the norm during the uneven Bob Davie era, the truncated Tyrone Willingham era, and the downward spiral that was the end of the Charlie Weis era. It's continued through Brian Kelly's two seasons in South Bend.

Of Kelly's 10 losses, all but one has occurred in back-to-back (or three consecutive) fashion, his 31-17 home defeat at the hands of USC the exception.

Davie lost two (or more) straight in every season except 2000, though he ended 2000 in defeat and began 2001 the same. Willingham lost back-to-back in 2002; lost three straight twice in 2003, and again back-to-back to end his tenure. Weis lost throughout 2007, back-to-back twice in '08, and four straight to end his run in '09.

Kelly experienced a three-game skid in his first September; back-to-back losses again in late October 2010; then opened and ended 2011 with consecutive defeats.

The 2012 schedule includes six teams over seven matchups that won 10 or more games last fall…don't expect victory following every defeat this fall, either.

Of note: Each of Gerry Faust's five Irish teams endured (at least) back-to-back defeats, as did three of Dan Devine's five Irish squads. The following ND teams have avoided back-to-back losses since Lou Holtz took over in 1986: the 1988 national champions and 1989 runner-up; the 1990, '92, and '93 teams; and both the '95 and '96 Irish to conclude Holtz's tenure. Since Holtz's departure, only Davie's 2000 team that qualified for the Fiesta Bowl turned the trick.

#23 -- More TD Tosses than Last Fall

2010 saw 27: 15 from Dayne Crist in eight games and another 12 more from Tommy Rees in the remaining five.

Those numbers dipped last fall, with Rees firing 20 touchdowns and Andrew Hendrix 1, the number representing the second-lowest number of touchdown passes at the program since Charlie Weis took over in 2005. It was also the lowest by a Brian Kelly-coached team since his Central Michigan days (2005).

Look for an uptick in 2012, with between 24-27 touchdown passes from a trio of Irish quarterbacks (mop-up duty included) over a 13-game slate. The number of passing scores will slightly out-distance the rushes to pay dirt of between 20-22 at season's end. (If you're scoring at home, that's a shade fewer than the 25 rushing scores produced against weaker defenses last fall.)

#24 -- Double Digit Leads and Deficits

Kelly has won 16 games as Notre Dame's head coach. In all but one of those 16 wins, the Irish, at some point, enjoyed a double digit lead during the contest that they held for victory (at Pittsburgh last year the nail-biter exception).

In Kelly's 10 losses, six of the matchups have likewise involved a double-digit deficit (MSU and Tulsa 2010; Michigan and FSU 2011 the exceptions).

That's 21 of 26 total games that included a double-digit deficit during the matchup. Expect that to continue this fall, with Kelly's Irish falling behind by 10 or more in four contests and surging ahead by 10 or more in a healthy seven.

But more important: For the first time in the Kelly era, Notre Dame will win a game when it trails by 10 or more points: 0-6 to date. That comeback win will open the door to the following end-season result:

#25 -- A Debilitating Streak Ends

You've seen the season referenced often over the last nine months, so what's one more notation, this time with a positive prognostication attached:

No Notre Dame team has finished a season ranked among the nation's Top 25 since 2006 -- the longest drought in program history.

Thanks to an oft-publicized murderous schedule and an unexpected ninth win in the season-end bowl matchup, Notre Dame will finish a better-than-expected 9-4, and among the nation's top 25 at season's end.


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