The expectations for Notre Dame to take a step back in 2021 continue, as Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated ranked the Fighting Irish 11th in his preseason ranking.
While Notre Dame still ranks higher than most of its opponents on other rankings, Forde has the Irish ranked behind three of its 2021 opponents.
Here is what Forde had to say about the Irish.
“Brian Kelly’s recruiting has been consistently good for years now, and this will be a big test of that. The Fighting Irish are a team in transition, needing new faces to step up at quarterback, receiver, offensive line and at various positions on defense. Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan looks like the starter at QB, possessing the veteran savvy Notre Dame enjoyed with Ian Book. He has a very good running back in Kyren Williams and tight end in Michael Mayer to depend on, and the arrival of Marshall transfer Cain Madden should help solidify the Irish’s traditionally strong offensive line. The best player on the team is safety Kyle Hamilton. Kelly replaced one star defensive coordinator (Clark Lea) with another (Marcus Freeman, expropriated from Cincinnati). The schedule is rigorous.” – Forde
Ford has Cincinnati (No. 6), Wisconsin (No. 8) and even USC (No. 9) ranked ahead of Notre Dame. Although I disagree with the notion of having Cincinnati ahead of the Irish I at least get it when you consider the Bearcats’ 9-1 season in 2020, the fact its only loss was by three points to Georgia and the fact Cincinnati returns A LOT from its 2020 squad.
Wisconsin being ahead of Notre Dame makes little sense and I was shocked to see USC to high on Forde’s list. Notre Dame has defeated USC in four of the last five matchups, has finished ranked ahead of the Trojans in each of the last four seasons and host the Trojans this season. He is correct in that USC has a favorable schedule, something we discussed in a recent podcast breaking down the Trojans.
North Carolina, another Notre Dame opponent, ranked No. 13 on the list, which means the Irish play four opponents ranked in the Top 15. That should be remembered if the Irish have another strong season and analysts start trying to pick apart the schedule.
Forde focused more on what Notre Dame lost than what it has coming in, but he takes the opposite approach with Georgia, who returns the same number of starters as the Irish.
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