Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2023 Season Preview & Record Prediction
2022 Record: 9-3
The dawn of the Marcus Freeman era in South Bend, Indiana, faced its share of early challenges. Commencing the season with an away loss against the Ohio State Buckeyes, a 21-10 defeat set a challenging tone. The ensuing week saw them experience one of the most stunning upsets of 2022, falling at home to the Marshall Thundering Herd by a narrow 26-21 margin. The defeats cast uncertainty over Freeman’s leadership after Brian Kelly departed to join the LSU Tigers. However, a rebound occurred the following week when they secured their first 24-17 home win over Cal.
This marked a turning point as the team claimed eight of their next ten games, rounding off the 2022 season on a solid note. In their bowl game, a Gator Bowl showdown, they triumphed over the South Carolina Gamecocks, sealing a 45-38 victory. Freeman’s short tenure has been marked by impressive recruiting, with the actual effects of those efforts projected for the upcoming season. Presently, his roster boasts seasoned talent on both sides of the field.
Previewing the Notre Dame Offense
The Notre Dame offense underwent a significant transformation at the close of the 2022 season. Key departures included standout tight end Michael Mayer, who embarked on his NFL journey, and quarterback Drew Pyne, who transitioned to Arizona State through the transfer portal. Notably, offensive coordinator Tommy Rees also moved on to Alabama, bringing quarterback Tyler Buchner along with him. Stepping into Pyne’s shoes is Sam Hartman, formerly of Wake Forest, adding a wealth of experience to the Fighting Irish’s passing strategy.
Across his five collegiate seasons, Hartman has amassed an impressive 13,000 passing yards and 110 touchdowns. In the realm of receiving, wideout Tobias Merriweather is anticipated to be Hartman’s primary target, while the return of Jayden Thomas bolsters Notre Dame’s slot presence. Despite the departure of running back Logan Diggs to LSU, the ground game’s reliance falls on Audric Estime, a force who led the Irish in 2022 with over 920 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
Previewing the Notre Dame Defense
Reviewing Notre Dame’s defensive performance last season reveals their impressive ability to stand firm. They relinquished only 329 total offensive yards and an average of 23 points per game. With a returning powerhouse roster, the upcoming season promises an even more formidable unit. Linebackers JT Bertrand and Jack Kiser commanded the team’s tackling efforts, accumulating 140 tackles. The collaboration of Bertrand, Kiser, and the emerging Marist Liufau is poised to form a crucial backbone of the Fighting Irish’s defense.
As the defensive line adjusts to the departure of Isaiah Foskey, now a member of the New Orleans Saints, Javontae Jean-Baptiste, an Ohio State transfer, steps into a prominent role as the primary edge rusher for the Irish. The likes of Howard Cross and Rylie Mills will anchor the interior line. In the secondary, sophomore cornerback Benjamin Morrison shoulders heightened expectations after an impressive 2022 season, leading the team with six takeaways.
NC State: (September 9)
Ohio State: (September 23)
Duke: (September 30)
USC: (October 14)
Clemson: (November 4)
Looking ahead to Marcus Freeman’s second year at the helm, Notre Dame is poised for significant improvement. However, the upcoming season is seen more as a time of growth than an immediate playoff quest. The schedule is fraught with potential obstacles that make a playoff berth uncertain. While key matchups against Ohio State and USC will unfold on home turf, the challenge lies in the four ACC road games, which could be tricky for the Fighting Irish.
While a spot in the playoffs isn’t guaranteed due to these roadblocks, Notre Dame supporters can still find solace in the team’s progression. Despite the hurdles, the Irish are anticipated to rise above the challenges posed by the 2023 schedule and secure a bowl game appearance this season.