In our fourth off-season surveys, the Irish Illustrated staff was presented with a list of 13 questions regarding the 2015 slate. Results are varied, as expected, with a common historical theme interwined: USC presents a problem.
The voters: Jake Brown, Jack Freeman, Steve Hare, Anna Hickey, Tim O’Malley, Tim Prister and Pete Sampson.
1.) Removing Massachusetts and Wake Forest as possible answers, Notre Dame will “handle” which team on its 2015 schedule? (*Handle defined as a very slim chance of defeat at any point in the fourth quarter):
Quotable: Keenan Reynolds can’t work his magic after ND’s trial run with Georgia Tech QB Justin Thomas three weeks earlier. – Tim Prister
2.) Conversely, which team will “handle” Notre Dame?
Quotable: No one will beat them handily – there will be losses, just not blowouts. – Jack Freeman
3.) Which foe from this list will upset Notre Dame: Texas, Virginia, Navy, Temple, Pittsburgh, Boston College, None, or more than one?
O’Malley: Pittsburgh or BC
Quotable: Either Pitt or BC, but not both. Kelly’s former November reign has turned to pain. – Tim O’Malley
4.) Rank the likelihood, #1 through #4, that ND wins against these teams: Georgia Tech, Clemson, USC, Stanford, with #1 being the most likely?
TJP: Stanford, Ga. Tech, USC, Clemson
Sampson: Stanford, Ga. Tech, USC, Clemson
Jack: Ga. Tech, Clemson, Stanford, USC
Jake: Ga. Tech, Stanford, Clemson, USC
Steve: Ga. Tech, Stanford, Clemson, USC
Anna: Stanford, Ga. Tech, Clemson, USC
O’Malley: Ga. Tech, Clemson, Stanford, USC
Quotable: USC is returning plenty of last year's talent, which means they could make waves nationally. Stanford is returning its quarterback... So the opposite applies. – Anna Hickey
5.) Which opposing offensive player will give Notre Dame the most problems?
TJP: Deshaun Watson (Clemson)
Sampson: Justin Thomas (Ga. Tech)
Jack: Cody Kessler (USC)
Jake: Tyler Boyd (Pittsburgh)
Steve: Deshaun Watson
Anna: Justin Thomas
O’Malley: Deshaun Watson
Quotable: Notre Dame has historically struggled against athletic quarterbacks. Watson might be the best player in the country. That’s not a good matchup for the Irish. – Steve Hare
6. Which opposing defensive player will give Notre Dame the most problems?
TJP: Adoree’ Jackson (USC)
Sampson: Adoree’ Jackson
Jack: The Ga. Tech Secondary
Jake: Su’a Cravens (USC)
Steve: Malik Jefferson (Texas)
Anna: Adoree’ Jackson
O’Malley: Su’a Cravens
Quotable: Jackson presents the potential to give ND problems on offense, special teams and defense. I don't expect to see Greer Martini covering Jackson in the red zone again this year, but he remains a match-up issue and a game-changing playmaker. – Anna Hickey
7.) Which Irish opponent will keep the game closer than it should be this season?
TJP: Boston College
Jake: Boston College
O’Malley: Boston College
Quotable: Boston College always seems to keep it close, right? This probably brings back some brutal memories from Notre Dame seasons past. BC should do a good enough job running the ball to put possessions at a premium, which automatically trends to a closer game than expected. – Jake Brown
8. What will Notre Dame’s record be after seven games? (7 games precede the bye, concluding with USC)
Quotable: I predicted in June the Irish will start 4-0, and I don’t think they’ll lose both marquee games in October. So 6-1 it is. – Tim O’Malley
9. What’s more likely, that ND finishes undefeated at home or loses twice at home? (Losing once was not a listed option):
Jack: Twice if you include BC as a home game
Quotable: Though they could lose just once, it’s more likely that Notre Dame will lose twice at home (than go undefeated). I can’t see the Irish beating both Texas and USC in South Bend this season. – Steve Hare
10. What’s more likely, that ND finishes undefeated away from home, or loses twice away from home? (Again, losing once was not a listed option):
Quotable: They’ll go undefeated or lose once away from home this year, but not twice. – Jack Freeman
11. I consider this matchup to be a relative stalemate in terms of coaching vs. Notre Dame, or even to favor the opponent's staff:
TJP: Ga. Tech
Sampson: Ga. Tech
Anna: Ga. Tech
O’Malley: Ga. Tech
Quotable: Add USC to this answer if you include recruiting – Pete Sampson
12. I consider this matchup to heavily favor the Notre Dame coaching staff:
Sampson: Texas, UVA
Steve: Boston College
Quotable: First-year head coach Pat Narduzzi will experience some growing pains without a previous blueprint. – Tim Prister
13. I believe this opponent has more developed college talent for the 2015 season than does Notre Dame:
Quotable: Man-for-man, Trojans edge out Notre Dame, Clemson for top talent – Tim Prister
Note: For previous staff ballots, click the links below:
Class Ranks: (Prister, Sampson, O’Malley rank the best in each class)