For the last six pre-seasons, Irish Illustrated has offered a list of expectations heading into the season entitled, “100 Hunches.” It’s offered in 10-hunch segments throughout July and August, and begins with a projection of the national landscape. We then center on specifics regarding the upcoming season for the Fighting Irish, including game-by-game predictions.
As you might imagine, some predictions were prescient (on a limited scale); others are so far off the mark that it was comical, including the hunches that were blown up due to Notre Dame’s five suspensions.
Each January, we give a brief recap of the 100 Hunches. Here is our hit-and-miss tally.
100. Florida State will win the ACC Atlantic Division: Correct. The Seminoles won the division by two games over Clemson.
99. North Carolina will win the ACC Coastal Division: Incorrect. Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels finished a game behind Duke and two games behind the Yellow Jackets.
98. Ohio State will win the Big Ten East Division: Correct. By virtue of the head-to-head victory over Michigan State in November.
97. Iowa will win the Big Ten West Division: Incorrect. Wisconsin. What happens when you go out on a flimsy limb? Crack! Hawkeyes finished fourth, three games behind the Badgers.
96. Oregon will win the Pac 12 North Division: Correct. Ducks coast to a three-game advantage over second-place Stanford.
95. UCLA will win the Pac 12 South Division: Incorrect. Arizona. Jumped on the Bruins’ pre-season bandwagon like many others. Early-October loss to Utah proved killer, offsetting victory over Arizona.
94. Alabama will win the SEC West Division: Correct, but Mississippi State gave it quite a run.
93. South Carolina will win the SEC East Division: Incorrect. Missouri. Lesson learned…again. Never pick the Gamecocks until at least the year after they finally win a division.
92. Baylor will win the Big 12: Correct. By virtue of the head-to-head win over TCU.
91. Central Florida will win the American Athletic Conference: Correct (tied for first with Memphis and Cincinnati). Wait a minute, who’s in that conference again? Only those in it really know.
90. Boise State will defeat Fresno State for the Mountain West title: Correct. Broncos close the season on a nine-game winning streak.
89. Bowling Green will defeat Northern Illinois for the MAC title: Incorrect. Northern Illinois defeated Bowling Green. Tried to be smart and pick against the Huskies, the perennial frontrunners.
88. Marshall will defeat UTSA for the C-USA title: Incorrect. Marshall defeated Louisiana Tech. Thought it was time for the Roadrunners (UTSA) to rise. They finished 3-5 in the conference. Now we know why Miami fired Larry Coker.
87. Louisiana will win the Sun Belt title: Incorrect. Georgia Southern. Are the Eagles back to the level when Paul Johnson was their coach? Not quite, but they’re for real.
86. Florida State will defeat North Carolina for the ACC title: Incorrect. Florida State defeated Georgia Tech.
85. Ohio State will defeat Iowa for the Big Ten title: Incorrect. Ohio State defeated Wisconsin.
84. Oregon will defeat UCLA for the Pac 12 title: Incorrect. Oregon defeated Arizona.
83. Alabama will defeat South Carolina for the SEC title: Incorrect. Alabama defeated Missouri.
82. Auburn will defeat Iowa in the Peach Bowl: Incorrect. TCU beat Mississippi.
81. South Carolina will defeat North Carolina in the Orange Bowl: Incorrect. Georgia Tech defeated Mississippi State. Couldn’t pass up the symmetry of a North (Carolina) vs. South (Carolina) match-up.
80. Georgia will defeat Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl: Incorrect. Boise State beat Arizona.
79. Oklahoma will defeat UCLA in the Cotton Bowl: Incorrect. Michigan State beat Baylor.
78. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota will win the Heisman Trophy: Correct. But had Jameis Winston (Florida State), Bryce Petty (Baylor), Braxton Miller (Ohio State) and Brett Hundley (UCLA) as runners-up, not Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin) and Amari Cooper (Alabama).
77. No. 1 seed Alabama will defeat No. 4 seed Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl: Correct seedings, but Ohio State defeated Alabama.
76. No. 3 Oregon will defeat No. 2 seed Florida State in the Rose Bowl: Correct, except Oregon was the No. 2 seed and Florida State was the No. 3 seed.
75. No. 1 seed Alabama will defeat No. 3 seed Oregon in the national title game: Incorrect.
74. TCU will go from four victories to nine victories in the regular season: Correct, in fact, the Horned Frogs exceeded that by winning 11 regular-season games.
73. Texas A&M falls to the back of the pack in the SEC West: Incorrect. Texas A&M finished one game ahead of last-pace Arkansas. Will Kevin Sumlin ever be held accountable for his team’s poor defensive play?
72. Tennessee records its first winning season since 2009 with a 7-6 record: Correct. Could have been even better had the Vols pulled out close losses to Georgia and Florida early in the year.
71. Chuck Martin will win two games in his first year at Miami (Ohio); Bob Diaco will win four games in his first year at Connecticut: Correct on Martin. Incorrect on Diaco. Miami didn’t even compete in 2013. Martin’s accomplishments were way more impressive than the 2-10 mark. Five of the losses were by single digits and two others were by 10. Diaco, on the other hand, has a long way to go.
70. Top opposing player vs. ND (offense) – Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly: Incorrect. USC’s Cody Kessler completed 32-of-40 passes for 372 yards and six touchdowns.
69. Top opposing player vs. ND (defense) – Stanford’s James Vaughters: Incorrect. More inclined to look to one of several Arizona State defenders, who sacked Everett Golson seven times, picked him off four times, and forced a fumble.
68. Number of 100-yard rushers vs. ND – Four (FSU’s Karlos Williams, Navy’s Keenan Reynolds, Northwestern’s Venric Mark and USC’s Javorious Allen): Incorrect. There were six 100-yard rushers -- North Carolina QB Marquise Williams (18-132), Navy’s Noah Copeland (16-138), Arizona State’s D.J. Foster (21-120), Northwestern’s Justin Jackson (23-149), Louisville’s Brandon Radcliff (17-136), and LSU’s Leonard Fournette (11-143).
67. Nine regular-season opponents will win at least eight games (bowls included): Incorrect. Only seven – Rice (8), Stanford (8), Navy (8), Louisville (9), USC (9), Arizona State (10) and Florida State (12).
66. Best opponent record regular season – Florida State: Correct. 12-0.
65. Worst record – Purdue (3-9): Correct. Syracuse also went 3-9.
64. Only Purdue will finish under .500 among ND opponents: Incorrect. So did Syracuse (3-9), Michigan (5-7), Northwestern (5-7) and North Carolina (6-7), which made the “impossible” schedule during the pre-season look relatively tame.
63. Most improved record among ND opponents regular season -- Northwestern plus-three: Incorrect. Surprisingly, the Notre Dame opponent that made the greatest leap in victories was Purdue from one win in 2013 to three in 2014.
62. Biggest decline among ND opponents regular season– Rice and Stanford: Correct, as well as Louisville. All three had three less regular-season victories than in 2013.
61. Victories by opponent regular season – Rice 6 (Incorrect 7), Michigan 9 (Incorrect 5), Purdue 3 (Correct), Syracuse 7 (Incorrect 3), Stanford 10 (Incorrect 7), North Carolina 9 (Incorrect 6), Florida State 12 (Correct), Navy 10 (Incorrect 7), Arizona State 9 (Correct), Northwestern 8 (Incorrect 5), Louisville 9 (Correct), USC 10 (Incorrect 8).
60. Notre Dame will exceed Vegas’ line of 7.5 wins during the regular season: Incorrect. Looked like a lock with four games to go.
59. Arizona State will score the most points against Notre Dame: Correct (55).
58. Purdue will score the fewest points against Notre Dame: Incorrect (Michigan 0).
57. Jaylon Smith will lead the team in tackles: Correct (112), although Joe Schmidt was leading when he went down with the ankle injury.
56. Everett Golson will start every game for Notre Dame: Incorrect. Malik Zaire started the bowl game. The point of the hunch was that Golson would stay healthy all year, not actually lose a grip on the job.
55. Malik Zaire plays an integral role for the offense: Correct, but only in the bowl game. Thought Brian Kelly might utilize him in the red zone during the regular season.
54. Tarean Folston leads Notre Dame in rushing: Correct, by a stunning 600-yard margin.
53. DaVaris Daniels leads the team in receptions: Incorrect. Just missed this one by a mere 77 receptions.
52. Notre Dame will defeat Rice, 38-14: Correct (48-17).
51. Notre Dame will defeat Michigan, 27-20: Correct (sort of, 31-0).
50. Tarean Folston will score the first TD on new ND Stadium turf: Incorrect. Everett Golson.
49. Running distribution – Tarean Folston 835 yards, 7 TDs; Greg Bryant 680 yards, 6 TDs; Cam McDaniel 490 yards, 5 TDs: Incorrect. The only thing really close was Folston’s 889 yards rushing and 6 TDs.
48. Ishaq Williams will lead the team in sacks: Incorrect. Romeo Okwara led with a modest 4.0.
47. Austin Collinsworth will lead the team in interceptions: Incorrect. Matthias Farley and Cole Luke led the way with four each.
46. Notre Dame will defeat Purdue, 44-13: Correct (30-14), although should know by now there’s a less than 50-50 chance of the Irish hammering the Boilermakers, even when there’s a clear disparity.
45. Malik Zaire will have more rushing touchdowns than Everett Golson: Incorrect. Golson had eight, Zaire two in very limited time.
44. Matthias Farley will play a key role for the Irish defense: Correct. A real bounce-back year. Even better than anticipated once he was healthy again.
43. Corey Robinson finishes second on the team in receptions: Correct. One ahead (40) of No. 3 Chris Brown (39).
42. Greg Bryant will lead the running backs in receptions: Incorrect. Folston had 18, McDaniel 9 and Bryant 5. Bryant sure looked good catching the football in the pre-season.
41. Notre Dame will defeat Syracuse, 27-21: Correct (31-15), but surprised by the Orange’s collapse at end season. Thought their physicality would help carry them.
40. Joe Schmidt is considered an asset for the Irish defense: Correct. Seems a bit silly now, but there were questions as to whether Schmidt was a legitimate starter.
39: ND will rank among the nation’s top 40 in red-zone TD percentage: Incorrect, but it was a vast improvement over 2013 when the Irish finished 100th at 53.3 percent. ND improved to 45th at 64.5 percent.
38. Nick Martin/Joe Schmidt/KeiVarae Russell named captains: Correct on Martin; Incorrect on Schmidt, Russell and the exclusion of Austin Collinsworth.
37. Golson will fall short of a 3-to-1 TD-to-interception ratio: Correct. He was well on his way to making the hunch incorrect with seven TD passes and no interceptions through three games, only to finish with 29 scoring tosses and 14 picks.
36. Chris Brown finishes second on the team in touchdown receptions: Incorrect. Corey Robinson’s five were second to Will Fuller’s 15. Brown had just one.
35. Stanford will defeat Notre Dame, 27-24: Incorrect, a 17-14 Notre Dame victory, but it took some last-second heroics.
34. Freshman contributors (offense) – Tyler Luatua, Justin Brent, Corey Holmes and Quenton Nelson: Incorrect on Nelson; Correct on Luatua, Brent and Holmes, although the latter two barely played.
33. Freshman contributors (defense) -- Andrew Trumbetti, Jhonny Williams, Jonathan Bonner, Daniel Cage, Kolin Hill, Nick Watkins and Nyles Morgan: Correct on Trumbetti, Cage, Hill, Watkins and Morgan; Incorrect on Williams and Bonner, although signs point to bright futures.
32. Jaylon Smith will score Notre Dame’s only defensive touchdown of the season: Incorrect. Austin Collinsworth had a scoop-and-score touchdown against Northwestern.
31. Notre Dame will defeat North Carolina, 35-31: Correct (50-43), although thought was that 35-31 would be considered “high scoring.”
30. Sheldon Day will lead the team in tackles for loss: Incorrect. Day finished tied for second with 7.5 behind Jaylon Smith (9.0).
29. Notre Dame will have a plus-nine turnover margin: Incorrect. It was plus-eight after three weeks; minus-three through 13 games. The 1-0 edge vs. LSU was the first advantage since the third game of the season.
28. Kyle Brindza attempts and makes fewer FGs than he did in 2012 and 2013: Correct. The idea was that ND would score more TDs in the red zone, which proved true. After going 23-of-31 in 2012 and 20-of-26 in 2013, Brindza was 14-of-24 in 2014.
27. Florida State will defeat Notre Dame, 34-20: Correct (31-27), sort of. Few imagined the Irish to come away deserving to win this game..
26. Ten Irish opponents land bowl bids: Incorrect. Eight made bowls, four didn’t – Michigan, Purdue, Syracuse and Northwestern.
25. Max Redfield emerges as a playmaker: Incorrect. Although he capped his first season as a full-time player with a 14-tackle effort against LSU, and finished second on the squad in tackles with 68, “playmaker” would be a bit of a stretch. He lost his starting job late in the season, came up with just one interception and was seventh on the team in passes defensed/broken up.
24. Rush defense remains a concern: Correct. In the last six games of the season, the Irish allowed 336 yards rushing to Navy, 188 to Arizona State, 263 to Northwestern, 229 to Louisville, 205 to USC and 285 to LSU.
23. Long pass (offense) – 80-yarder to Chris Brown: Incorrect. 78-yarder to C.J. Prosise (Navy).
22. Pass defense – Irish will allow four TD passes of 50 yards or more: Incorrect – one each by Rice and LSU.
21. Notre Dame will defeat Navy, 52-24: Correct (49-39), although like Notre Dame vs. Purdue, you never really know how it will transpire against the Midshipmen.
20. Pleasant surprise (offense) – Amir Carlisle: Incorrect. Carlisle started fast, suffered a knee injury, and then returned to finish with 23 catches and three TDs. There was no greater surprise than the emergence of Will Fuller, who caught 76 passes for 1,094 yards and 15 TDs.
19. Pleasant surprise (defense) – James Onwualu: Incorrect. Onwualu did some good things, particularly in the Music City Bowl, but Joe Schmidt, Jarron Jones, Isaac Rochell and Matthias Farley offered a more surprising 2014.
18. Pleasant surprise freshman (offense) – Tyler Luatua. Correct. Luatua didn’t do much. He didn’t catch a pass and went most of the season without playing much, due in part to a concussion. But he played a key blocking role in the bowl game and was a regular member of Notre Dame’s kick return unit.
17. Pleasant surprise freshman (defense) – Daniel Cage. Incorrect. Drue Tranquill played a key role from the outset before a late-season injury; Nyles Morgan finished seventh on the team in tackles.
16. Arizona State will defeat Notre Dame, 44-40: Correct (55-31), although it looked like a better pick when the Irish pulled to within 34-31 with 6:37 remaining.
15. Notre Dame’s highest rank will be No. 11: Incorrect. The Irish were No. 5 in the AP poll after a 6-0 start.
14. Notre Dame finds a role for Elijah Shumate: Correct. Shumate didn’t appear to be in the mix in the spring and was not a projected starter with a healthy Austin Collinsworth. Shumate finished third on the team in tackles and tied for second in passes broken up/defensed. He was violently physical vs. LSU.
13. Notre Dame will average more than 200 yards rushing per game: Incorrect. Not even close. Notre Dame finished at 159.2.
12. Offensive line starters remain the same from start to finish: Incorrect. The line remained the same for the last 10 games, but shuffled after the first three with Matt Hegarty moving into the lineup in place of Conor Hanratty.
11. Notre Dame will defeat Northwestern, 38-23: Incorrect (43-40 loss). If we had to pick it over again, we’d probably go with the same projection. Injuries or no injuries, that’s about what Notre Dame should have won by.
10. All offensive linemen with eligibility will return: Incomplete, but likely incorrect with Conor Hanratty’s career in jeopardy due to concussions and the possibility of Ronnie Stanley leaving early for the NFL.
9. Notre Dame will defeat Louisville, 27-20: Incorrect (31-28 loss), but had a chance to win with 1st-and-goal late.
8. Freshman of the year (offense) – Tyler Luatua: Correct in a limited role.
7. Freshman of the year (defense) – Andrew Trumbetti: Correct. Played the most extensive role among rookie defensemen with 5.5 tackles for loss, although one could make an argument for Tranquill and Morgan. Trumbetti was named the starter by Brian Kelly in the pre-season.
6. Notre Dame will average 34.0 points per game: Incorrect but close at 32.8.
5. Assistant coach of the year – Brian VanGorder: Incorrect. This looked like a no-brainer halfway through the season, but when the injuries hit – beginning with Joe Schmidt – the unit was never the same again.
Credit to Mike Denbrock for the development of Will Fuller, Corey Robinson, C.J. Prosise, Amir Carlisle and Chris Brown. Also, defensive line coach Mike Elston received good productivity out of Jarron Jones, Isaac Rochell and Andrew Trumbetti, who were unproven heading into the season. Romeo Okwara played better in the second half of the season as well.
4. Offensive MVP – Everett Golson: Incorrect. Too many turnovers. Will Fuller gets the nod.
3. Defensive MVP – Jaylon Smith: Correct. He was the team’s leading tackler as well as the top man on the team in tackles for loss. If one were to suggest Joe Schmidt, Sheldon Day or Jarron Jones, you wouldn’t get an argument here.
2. USC will defeat Notre Dame, 31-27: Correct (49-14)...except for the blowout part.
1. LSU will defeat Notre Dame in the Taxslayer Bowl: Incorrect. Missed on the specific bowl and the outcome, but got the correct match-up with a projected 8-4 regular season for the Irish. Top hunch shot-in-the-dark hunch behind picking the playoff match-ups.