The Dreaded Stubbed Toe

Prediction No. 6 in our summer series points to a (nearly) annual, unfortunate occurrence for the Irish program.

The Golden Nugget sportsbook piqued the interest of college football fans and gamblers nationwide Friday with its annual summer release of select college football point spreads.

Among the 150 games now available for wagering are eight involving Notre Dame, and the Irish are favored in six.

-- Favored by 7.5 vs. Texas in the season opener
-- Favored by 9 points one week later at Virginia
-- Favored by 2 points for the mid-September showdown against Georgia Tech
-- Underdogs of 3.5 points to open October at Clemson
-- Favored by a whopping 14 points vs. Navy one week later
-- Considered a “Pick ‘Em” for the mid-October revenge match against USC. (No point spread, just pick the winner)
-- Favorites of just 3 points at Pittsburgh on Nov. 7
-- Underdogs of 3 points at Stanford to conclude the regular season.

Notre Dame games with point spreads not yet available include Massachusetts (Sept. 26), Temple (Oct. 31), Wake Forest (Nov. 14) and Boston College (Nov. 21).

Barring an unforeseen collapse, the Irish will be favored in each – and that brings us to the sixth prediction in our summer series:

For the 23rd season in its last 25, Notre Dame will lose as a favorite.

AVOIDING THE STUBBED TOE
Notre Dame’s 12-0 championship season of 1988 saw the Irish favored in just nine of its 12 contests:

-- A Week Two trip to Michigan State was a Pick ‘Em
-- The epic against Miami had the Hurricanes favored by 3.5 in South Bend
-- And the season-finale at fellow 10-0 USC showed the Trojans as 4-point favorites against Lou Holtz’s short-handed crew.

The Irish won them all and 12 of their next 13 the year after, favored in all but two 1989 contests (at #2 Michigan and at #7 Miami) and finished 12-1, losing only to the eventual national champion ‘Canes.

Consecutive campaigns; no upset defeats.

Thereafter, and including 1990, an upset loss has felled the Irish in every season with two exceptions:

-- 2000: The Irish finished 9-3, winning eight as favorites and once as a six-point home underdog to Purdue (Come on!), but losing the three other games in which they were staked as underdogs (No. 1 Nebraska, No. 23 Michigan State in East Lansing, and the Fiesta Bowl against No. 5 Oregon State).

-- 2012: A 12-1 season included 10 wins as favorites, two as underdogs, and a championship game defeat to heavy favorite Alabama.

THE UPSETS
Twenty-five previous football seasons in South Bend, 23 of which included an upset defeat. The total number of upset losses is listed in parenthesis:

1990 (2): A shocking 36-31 home loss to a Stanford team that finished 5-6, plus the home finale, a 24-21 loss to No. 18 Penn State. The Irish ranked No. 1 nationally entering both.

1991 (1): A home loss to No. 13 Tennessee (Notre Dame #8) as the Irish gave up a 31-7 lead in the 35-34 loss known in Knoxville as "The Miracle in South Bend."

1992 (1): No. 7 Notre Dame jumped out to a 16-0 lead at home over No. 17 Stanford, only to watch the Cardinal run off 33 consecutive points in the humbling defeat.

1993 (1): You know the story – #16 Boston College 41, #1 Dame 39 on Senior Day in South Bend.

1994 (3): Lost as favorites of 5.5 over #6 Michigan, as 10-point favorites at Boston College, and as 15-point favorites one week later at home against Brigham Young.

1995 (1): At the time, it appeared to be a sign of the Apocalypse, a season-opening home loss to 28-point underdog Northwestern. However, the Wildcats proved to be a quality squad winning the Big 10 crown.

1996 (2): An inexplicable home loss, in overtime, to Air Force, Holtz’s only loss to an Academy program in his 11 seasons at the helm, plus a season-ending defeat at USC – as favorites of a ridiculous 13 points – to conclude the Holtz era in South Bend.
 
1997 (3): Other than the off-season coaching hire, the loudest alarm sounded in Game Two with a 28-17 loss at unranked Purdue (the #12 Irish were favored by 20 points). Home losses as favorites over Michigan State and USC followed.

1998 (1): No. 10 Notre Dame was rocked at Michigan State, 45-23 as six-point favorites.

1999 (3): The 5-7 Irish suffered upsets at home vs. MSU, at Pittsburgh, and home against Boston College.

2000: None en route to 9-3

2001 (1): A Week Two home loss to Michigan State (favored by 10) was the only loss as a favorite among six sobering defeats.

2002 (1): An 8-0 start and No. 3 ranking in early November was lost at the hands of Boston College, 14-7 in South Bend.

2003 (2): Among seven regular season losses were defeats at the hands of MSU (Irish favored by 10) and at Syracuse (ND favored by 3).

2004 (3): A season-opening 20-17 loss at BYU plus crippling home losses to BC and Pittsburgh that sealed the Willingham regime's collective fate.

2005 (1): Among three defeats was a 44-41 OT thriller against Michigan State in which the Irish were favored by 4.5 points.

2006 (1): The second-ranked Irish were a touchdown favorite over visiting Michigan in a stunning 47-21 defeat.

2007 (1): The 3-9 Irish were favored just twice, beating Duke but previously losing to Navy as three-point favorites in the infamous streak-snapping defeat. 

2008 (2): At home to Pittsburgh as three-point favorites and at home to Syracuse as favorites of, ahem, 19.5.

2009 (3): At Michigan (favored by 3), home to Navy (favored by 12.5) and home to Connecticut (favored by 6).

2010 (3): Home against Michigan (favored by 3.5), against Navy (6.5), and at home against Tulsa (9.5)

2011 (3): Home against South Florida (favored by 9.5) at Michigan (3.5) and at home against USC (favored by 9.5, which seems insane at present).

2012: None en route to 12-1

2013 (1): At Pittsburgh as favorites of 4.5 points

2014 (2): Home to Northwestern as favorites of 17.5 and the following week as three-point favorites over Louisville.

Can the Irish avoid an upset in the 9-10 outings this regular season in which they’ll be staked as favorites?

History suggests otherwise.


Prediction #5 – Sophomore Sacker

Prediction #4 – Close and Late

Prediction #3 – When September Ends

Prediction #2 – Where There’s a Will

Prediction #1 – The Playmaker



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