The Notre Dame Fighting Irish went through a very bumpy ride in the first season of Marcus Freeman’s tenure as the team’s head coach. Freeman took over from Brian Kelly last year, and in the first several weeks of the season, Freeman looked like a coach who hadn’t really figured out how to run a program and specifically make adjustments on offense.
Notre Dame absorbed an atrocious loss on its home field to Marshall, a team from a smaller (Group of Five) conference. The Irish were eliminated from College Football Playoff consideration by the midway point of the season. Everything could have come crashing down on Freeman, and he could have panicked, but instead, he gathered himself and enabled Notre Dame to improve in the second half of the season. The Irish looked significantly better and ended the season thinking they could reclaim national relevance this year. Now we get to see if the improvements made late in 2022 will carry over into 2023.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2023 Futures
Odds To Win National Championship: +3000 at Bovada
Best Bet To Win Heisman
Sam Hartman is priced at +1800 to win the Heisman Trophy, according to the latest NCAAF odds. The good news for Hartman relative to his Heisman chances is that he is playing for one of the most visible and prominent college football teams in the country. He previously played for Wake Forest, which is comparatively obscure.
Now, he plays for a team with a national television audience in nearly every game it plays. Heisman voters and major college football journalists watch Notre Dame eagerly every week. Hartman definitely has the platform from which to make a case for the Heisman. What also helps is that Notre Dame plays three huge games this season, against Ohio State, USC and Clemson. If the Irish win at least two of those three games and make the College Football Playoff, Hartman will probably be one of the three or four Heisman Trophy finalists in December in New York.
The bad news for Hartman is that most experts think he doesn’t have the elite receivers a quarterback usually needs to put up elite passing statistics and score the shootout-style wins Heisman quarterbacks usually need in order to claim the trophy. There are significant questions about the Notre Dame offense, even though Hartman represents a clear upgrade at quarterback from Drew Pyne last season. Hartman isn’t someone you would want to bet heavily on, but he does have an outside chance of getting into the thick of the race. He is one of the more interesting Heisman candidates outside the top five favorites.
Pick: Sam Hartman
Best Player Prop To Bet
Jayden Thomas Receiving Yards
Jayden Thomas is one of several Notre Dame receivers who will have to prove themselves this season in order to help this team reach its goals. Thomas is viewed as one of the more consistent receivers in the group, and having Sam Hartman throwing passes to him should make him a better receiver in 2023.
However, while Thomas might seem attractive as Hartman’s top target – someone who will get a lot of opportunities to catch the ball – what will hurt him is that Notre Dame might not have a good enough No. 2 receiver on the other side of the field to earn the respect of opposing defenses. Thomas could become the central point of focus in opposing defensive coordinators’ game plans. That should have a negative effect on the number of receiving yards he can accumulate this season. If you see a receiving yards prop for Thomas, go under the total.
Pick: Jayden Thomas Under Receiving Yards
Notre Dame Fighting Irish Regular Season Win Total
The Fighting Irish play Ohio State and USC at home this season, and they also visit Clemson. It will be very difficult for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to win any of those three games, but the other side of this discussion is that if Notre Dame can win just one of the three contests, its odds of winning nine games this season – going over the 8.5 win total – rise considerably.
The Ohio State home game is in September, which brings up the point that the Buckeyes – immensely talented but inexperienced this season – might be ripe for an ambush in South Bend. Ohio State’s offense is extremely skilled, but the Buckeyes are replacing quarterback C.J. Stroud this year. In September, their offense might not function as well as they expect or hope. Notre Dame could pick off Ohio State in late September. If that game had been scheduled in late October, Notre Dame’s chances of winning would have been a lot lower.
The home game versus USC is also going to be very challenging, but the note of optimism for Notre Dame in that game is that USC’s defense was atrocious last season, rated No. 94 out of nearly 130 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Trojans might be better on defense this year, but even if they are moderately better, they might still be outside the top 50 in terms of defensive rankings. That’s still a mediocre defense – better than in 2022, but not good on an absolute scale and an overall standard. Notre Dame could score a ton of points against USC and knock off the Trojans at home.
The game at Clemson figures to be the toughest of the three because it’s on the road and late in the season. If Clemson has some hiccups early in the season, the Tigers should be much smoother and more polished by the end of the season, and that will make things harder for Notre Dame’s defense.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish Outlook
If Notre Dame can’t win any of those three showdowns, it will have to win all nine of its other games to finish over the win total. The toughest of those nine games: at North Carolina State, at Duke, and home versus Pittsburgh. Notre Dame will be favored in most or all of those games. The road trip to Duke – which had a great 2022 season and is led by former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Mike Elko – could be the toughest game of the three.
The sense here is that the Notre Dame-Duke game will decide whether the Irish finish over the total or not. Notre Dame deserves the edge over Duke, so lean to the over, but this is going to be a close one.