College Football Odds: No Coach On Hotter Seat in 2017 Than Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly

brian kelly notre dame

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 5:28 PM GMT

Love them or hate them, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish remain one of the most popular and important college football teams in the country. If the Irish don’t have a strong 2017 season, they will be in the market for a new head coach.

Notre Dame Job Would Be In Demand

Notre Dame football is like the New York Yankees in Major League Baseball or Duke in college basketball: you either love them or hate them and there’s no in between. While the Irish haven’t won a national title since the 1988 season, they still draw huge ratings on television and major betting handle at SBR’s top-rated sportsbooks on all their games.

For years, coaching Notre Dame used to be somewhat easy because, even with the tough academic standards, you could pretty much cherry pick whomever you wanted from around the country. That’s no longer the case. High school All-Americans now know they can play on national TV at powerhouses like Alabama or USC or Florida State every week and don’t have to deal with the lousy winters of South Bend, Ind.

That said, Notre Dame is still one of the five best jobs in college football and it will be highly coveted should it come open. If Brian Kelly doesn’t lead his squad to at least eight wins in 2017, that head coaching job probably will be available.

If you look at any hot seat ranking for college coaches entering 2017, Kelly is at the top, ahead of guys like Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, UCLA’s Jim Mora and Arizona State’s Todd Graham to name four. The Notre Dame administration simply won’t stand for another 4-8 mark like in 2016. Yes, Kelly got a six-year extension from the school in January 2016, but Notre Dame already has proven it will pay a coach to go away. It owed Charlie Weis a whopping $19 million when he was fired in 2009.

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What To Look For In 2017

The opening win total for Notre Dame on college football odds was set at 8, with the ‘over’ a -130 favorite. It’s always tough to handicap the Irish’s total because they are an independent and, as usual, have one of the toughest schedules in the country. I see five expected victories on the schedule, four in South Bend: Sept. 2 vs. Temple, Sept. 30 vs. Miami (Ohio), Nov. 4 vs. Wake Forest and Nov. 18 vs. Navy. The one road victory would be Boston College on Sept. 16.

The Irish have tough home games vs. Georgia, USC and NC State (Wolfpack are better than you think) as well as trips to Michigan State (won in South Bend last year), North Carolina, Miami (Fla.) and Stanford. The Dawgs, Trojans, Hurricanes and Cardinal will all be preseason Top 25 teams. The Irish are +1300 on 5Dimes futures to make the College Football Playoff for the first time and -3000 to miss.

Kelly has new coordinators in Chip Long and Mike Elko. In Long’s one season as the OC at Memphis in 2016, the Tigers had the nation’s No. 16 scoring offense, averaging 39 points per game. Elko spent the past three years as the DC at Wake Forest and all three of his units finished in the top 40 nationally in total defense.

A total of 15 starters return for Kelly, but not at quarterback. DeShone Kizer turned pro after an up-and-down junior season in 2016 and former starter Malik Zaire transferred to Florida. The job now belongs to third-year sophomore Brandon Wimbush, who is a dual-threat QB and was a four-star recruit out of New Jersey. He played in two games as a backup in 2015 -- completing 3 of 5 passes for 17 yards and rushing for 96 yards -- before redshirting in 2016. Wimbush is +12500 to win the Heisman.

Long has installed an up-tempo offense. Last year’s leading receiver, 6-foot-5 Equanimeous St. Brown, is back. He caught 58 balls for 961 yards and nine TDs. Also returning are tight end Durham Smythe (nine catches, 112 yards, four TDs), leading rusher Josh Adams (158 carries, 933 yards, five TDs) and four starting offensive linemen.

This is not a national title contender or one that will reach the College Football Playoff. It’s conceivable the Irish could play in a New Year’s Six bowl, and they are +325 to do so. That likely would require no worse than a 10-2 record. However, I see a 9-3 mark (losses to USC, Miami and Stanford), which should be enough to save Kelly’s job barring a bowl blowout. If I’m wrong, anything 7-5 or worse and he’s gone.

Free NCAAF Pick: ‘Over’ 8 Wins (-130)Best Line Offered: BetOnline