Key Returns: Ian Book, Jafar Armstrong, Alohi Gilman, Cole Kmet and Julian Okwara.

Key Departures: Julian Love, Brandon Wimbush, Dexter Williams, Alize Mack, Jerry Tillery, Te’Von Coney and Drue Tranquil

Week 1Sept. 2nd 8:00 PM ET@ Louisville (ESPN)
Week 2Sept. 14th 2:30 PM ETvs. New Mexico (NBC)
Week 3Sept 21st TBD@ Georgia
Week 4Sept. 28th 3:30 PM ETvs. Virginia (NBC)
Week 5Oct. 5th 3:30 PM ETvs. Bowling Green (NBC)
Week 6Oct. 12th 7:30 PM ETvs. USC (NBC)
Week 7Bye Week
Week 8Oct. 26th TBD@ Michigan
Week 9Nov. 2nd 2:30 PM ETvs. Virginia Tech (NBC)
Week 10Nov. 9th TBD@ Duke
Week 11Nov. 16th 2:30 PM ETvs. Navy (NBC)
Week 12Nov. 23rd 2:30 PM ETvs. Boston College (NBC)
Week 13Nov. 30th TBD@ Stanford

Coming off a 12-1 campaign in 2018, the Irish look to find their way back to the college football playoff this season as Head Coach, Brian Kelly enters his tenth season leading the blue and gold. A 12-0 regular season led to an embarrassing 30-3 loss to Clemson, who went on to win the National Championship, in the Cotton Bowl. Led by Junior Quarterback, Ian Book, the Irish defeated big-name teams such as Michigan, Stanford, Virginia Tech, Northwestern and Syracuse en route to their 12-0 regular season.

Book is back for his senior season after throwing 19 touchdowns last season after being named the starter in week four at Wake Forest, replacing Brandon Wimbush. They lose some big names on the offensive side of the ball as Dexter Williams, Alize Mack, and Miles Boykin all went on to the NFL. The depth in the offense is something that will keep the Irish offense in good shape this year as Jafar Armstrong steps into the running back role, Cole Kmet will be the number one tight end and former walk-on Chris Finke will play a huge role in the slot. Look for the Irish to use the athleticism of Ian Book and the front five led by senior, Trevor Ruhland, to keep this Irish team in playoff contention.

The Irish lost a few big names on defense this past season as Drue Tranquil, Jerry Tillery, Julian Love and Te’Von Coney all left for the NFL. The defense played a huge part in wins over ranked opponents last season holding number twelve Syracuse to only three points. A few big names will return to the field this season as seniors Julian Okwara, Khalid Kareem and Daelin Hayes will lead the defense along with a dangerous set of safeties in Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott. Shaun Crawford returns to the nickel spot after his third season-ending injury. Asmar Bilal will lead the young group of linebackers and will add some experience to the group.

A huge impact on this Irish team is the loss of both their special teams starters. Kicker, Justin Yoon and punter, Tyler Newsome also went to the NFL. The Irish will have junior, Jonathan Doerer replaces Yoon at the kicker spot, while freshman Jay Bramblett is the likely candidate to start at punter.

The schedule is just as challenging as last year. The Irish hit the road in week one to visit Louisville for a primetime, Labor Day matchup. They also match up against Heisman Trophy candidate Jake Fromm and the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens for a primetime game. Georgia came to South Bend two years ago and beat the Irish. The Big House will welcome the Irish back for the first time since 2013 in a matchup with the Michigan Wolverines. They will also travel to Stanford to close out the season. Other notable matchups this season include Virginia Tech, USC, and Virginia, all at Notre Dame Stadium.

The Irish have a shot to make it back to the college football playoff despite the blowout loss last season. If this team can overcome the departures on the defensive side of the ball and the offense can consistently put up points, this team can make another run. The Georgia matchup is early enough that if the Irish lose, they can make up ground in the second half by beating teams like Michigan and Stanford, both are road games mind you. Brian Kelly should have a few more years of job security but this season could change that. If they face a down year, I think Kelly’s name will be on the hot seat. If they can manage an 11-1 regular season and at least a New Year’s six bowl, I think he will be around for a few years.