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2017 Notre Dame game-by-game predictions

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 26: Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly looks on from the sideline during an NCAA football game between Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the USC Trojans on November 26, 2016, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)
Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire
  • Here are my game-by-game predictions for Notre Dame’s bounceback season from a dismal 4-8 finish in 2016. The Irish will start quickly, but the schedule is bottom heavy.

I base the rejuvenation on a quote head coach Brian Kelly offered in a media session midway through fall camp. He talked about ridding entitlement from the program with off-season changes that began in January.

“We’re not going to reward talent,” Kelly said. “I did that last year — it was a mistake. We’ll reward those guys that have an attention to detail, that have a great focus and play with grit. We lost a lot of games last year with guys I did not develop in the right way. We’re going to develop them in the right way.”

That’s not to say Notre Dame will line up so-so talent. It means 3-star athletes can beat out 4-stars. Kelly revamped his coaching staff and intensified offseason training demands. That mindset was reinforced when senior walk-on Austin Webster was named a co-captain in the off-season and awarded a scholarship in August. Chip Long is the new offensive coordinator and Mike Elko the defensive coordinator.

Sept. 2: Temple, 3:30 p.m. ET

Temple missed an open door to milestone win over Notre Dame two years ago when the Irish prevailed 24-20 in Philadelphia. It will be tougher for the Owls to win at Notre Dame under a new head coach, Geoff Collins. Matt Rhule led Temple to 10-4 seasons in 2015 and 2016 before he took the Baylor job this season. Notre Dame relies on its strong offensive line with a conservative game plan. Notre Dame 24, Temple 14 (record, 1-0)

Sept. 9: Georgia, 7:30 p.m. ET

Georgia is a preseason No. 15-ranked team, but the Bulldogs enter a cauldron. Georgia has never played in South Bend and doesn’t know what awaits. Notre Dame’s renovation ceremonies copy the 1930 dedication of the stadium in that season’s second home game, a big win over Navy. The Irish utilize two-back sets with Josh Adams and Tony Jones. Notre Dame 35, Georgia 24 (record, 2-0)

Sept. 16: at Boston College, noon ET

Notre Dame is back in the Top 25 with a 2-0 start, but the Irish come up flat after an emotional week. Boston College, with 15 returning starters, is better than its 7-6 record a year ago. The Eagles mount an upset bid that forces Notre Dame to take the wraps off young quarterback Brandon Wimbush. The noon kickoff helps the Irish avoid an emotional night crowd. Notre Dame 17, Boston College 16 (record, 3-0; 1-0 vs. ACC)

Sept. 23: at Michigan State, 8 p.m. ET

Terry Hanratty and Rocky Bleier are among Notre Dame legends from the 1966 Game of the Century at Michigan State that are expected to attend. Michigan State has invited Notre Dame’s 1966 team to join the Spartans to recognize a seminal game in college football history. Previously, anniversaries have been limited to players from the host school. Both Kelly and Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio have worked to change the culture of their programs (the Spartans plummeted to 3-9 despite a win at Notre Dame). Michigan State responds to its first test following non-descript wins over Bowling Green State and Western Michigan. Michigan State 24, Notre Dame 23 (Record, 3-1)

Sept. 30: Miami (Ohio), 5 p.m. ET

Good thing it’s not the other Miami. The Irish needed a week to regroup after back-to-back road games at the end of a tough four-game stretch. Wimbush, Adams, Jones, wide receivers Equanimeous St. Brown and Chase Claypool and defenders Drue Tranquil, Nyles Morgan and Daelin Hayes all get in on the action. Notre Dame 49, Miami (Ohio) 10 (record, 4-1)

Oct. 7: at North Carolina, TBA

North Carolina is unable to keep up with the Irish on either side of the ball. The Tar Heels are rebuilding after their two best players, quarterback Mitch Trubisky and running back Elijah Hood, declared themselves eligible for the NFL Draft. The Irish’s second win against an ACC foe matches last year’s 2-3 win total. Notre Dame 30, North Carolina 13 (record, 5-1; 2-0 vs. ACC)

Oct. 21: USC, 7:30 p.m. ET

Notre Dame takes advantage of its bye week to prepare for USC quarterback Sam Darnold. Darnold still throws for 300 yards to maintain his Heisman campaign, but the Irish control the ball with their running game; they are opportunistic to pull out the victory. Notre Dame 30, USC 28 (record, 6-1)

Oct. 28: North Carolina State, 3:30 p.m. ET

N.C. State continues its breakthrough season under fifth-year head coach Dave Doeren led by quarterback Ryan Finley and defensive end Bradley Chubb. With Doeren’s Midwest background – he has been the head coach at Northern Illinois and defensive coordinator at Wisconsin – he knows this isn’t just another road trip. N.C. State is motivated to prove its 10-3 win over the Irish last year at Carter-Finley Stadium was about its burgeoning talent rather than Hurricane Matthew turning the turf to mud. N.C. State 23, Notre Dame 21 (record, 6-2; 2-1 vs. ACC)

Nov. 4: Wake Forest, 3:30 p.m. ET

Notre Dame rubs salt into the wounds Wake Forest suffered when the Irish hired away Elko from the Demon Deacons. If Wake Forest wondered what Elko’s 4-2-5 defense could look like with major recruiting talent, the Demon Deacons find out the hard way. Notre Dame 37, Wake Forest 12 (record, 7-2; 3-1 vs. ACC)

Nov. 11: at Miami (Fla.), TBA
Miami coach Mark Richt continues to grow the immense talent Al Golden recruited to Coral Gables before he was fired for failing to develop his athletes. The Hurricanes return 15 starters and were the overwhelming pick of the ACC media to win the ACC Coastal. Miami (Fla.) 27, Notre Dame 21 (record, 7-3, 3-2 ACC)

Nov. 18: Navy, 3:30 p.m. ET

Notre Dame’s 4-2-5 scheme is better suited for contending with Navy’s triple-option offense. Navy beat Notre Dame 28-27 last year when the Irish couldn’t get the Midshipmen off the field in the fourth quarter. Rover Drue Tranquill, who was a safety last year, has a big day. Notre Dame 40, Navy 20 (record, 8-3)

Nov. 25: at Stanford, TBA

The third loss in five games of a bottom heavy schedule reignites the heat on Kelly’s hot seat. Stanford running back Bryce Love looks a lot like Christian McCaffrey against the Irish. Cardinal head coach David Shaw win his third straight against the Irish for a record of 5-2 since he succeeded Jim Harbaugh in 2011. Notre Dame’s bowl performance might decide Kelly’s future. Stanford 26, Notre Dame 23 (record, 8-4)

Follow Tom Shanahan’s FanRag Sports stories on Twitter @shanny4055

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