The Results Are In: NDNation Probability Poll

(Notre Dame Football News) – For the 4th year the NDNation Probability Poll is in…. can 7,000 fans be wrong?  They have been three years running.    The Probability Poll takes the temperature of Irish fans heading into the season.

We came up with the probability concept to put a little more thought around predictions than just, is ND better than X? We ask every fan to estimate the probability of the Irish winning each game and use that to calculate expectations.


  • On average, fans expect 8.5 wins this year and think there’s a 1% chance of going undefeated and a 2% chance of finishing with 1 loss.
  • At the most optimistic (highest responses garnering at least 10%) fans expect 10.2 wins this season and think there’s a 13% chance of going undefeated and an 18% chance of finishing with 1 loss.
  • At the most pessimistic (lowest responses garnering at least 10%) expect 7 wins this season and think there’s almost zero chance of finishing the season undefeated or with one loss.

There seem to be four levels of opponents:

  • The coin tosses (<60%): Michigan State, Pittsburgh and USC
  • The slight favorites: Utah, Stanford, BC and Michigan.
  • The solid favorites: Purdue, Navy.
  • The heavy favorites: Army, Tulsa, and Western Michigan.

Fan disagreement:

  • Fans had the most disagreement about USC
  • Fans had the most certainty around Army followed by Purdue, Western Michigan and Tulsa.
  • In the chart below, the blue dotted line represents the optimistic bound (highest probability achieving at least 10%), the gold dotted line is the pessimistic bound (lowest probability achieving at least 10%) and the green line is the average.















Michigan State










Boston College










Western Michigan






























Expected Wins





*Filtering out responses with less than 10%

From a reader: I did a Monte Carlo simulation (n = 20,000) of the above data, and here are my results:

  • The bell curve is, roughly, normally distributed around 8 and 9 wins.
  • There is only a 0.5% chance that ND will win 4 or less games.
  • The probability of 5 wins is 2.2%.
  • There is only a 9.6% chance that ND will 6 games or less.
  • The probability of 7 wins is 15.3%.
  • The probability of 10 wins is 17.3%.
  • The probability of 11 wins is 7%.
  • There is an 8.1% chance of ND winning at least 11 games.
  • The probability of 12 wins is 1.1%.

Here are the full results to geek out to:

  • Light blue is your key color.  If it’s on the left hand side, that’s real good. That’s a win.
  • The gold is the next key color.  The further to the left, the better. If it’s in the middle or off the right the majority think this will be a tough game.

Result Summary for Survey:NDN Probability Poll

What is the % probability that Notre Dame will beat each opponent?
10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 Response
Purdue 0.2% (12) 0.1% (10) 0.2% (13) 0.3% (24) 2.3% (168) 8.7% (631) 25.6% (1,866) 34.3% (2,504) 20.7% (1,510) 7.6% (552) 7,290
Michigan 0.2% (15) 0.2% (13) 0.4% (32) 1.8% (129) 12.9% (939) 29.5% (2,149) 30.6% (2,232) 16.4% (1,194) 5.6% (408) 2.5% (183) 7,294
Michigan State 0.3% (21) 0.5% (36) 2.9% (212) 10.4% (755) 30.3% (2,209) 28.1% (2,048) 17.2% (1,255) 7.4% (538) 1.8% (131) 1.2% (88) 7,293
Stanford 0.3% (20) 0.5% (35) 2.0% (146) 7.6% (544) 23.9% (1,708) 28.8% (2,052) 20.7% (1,477) 10.2% (727) 4.0% (282) 2.0% (143) 7,134
Boston College 0.2% (14) 0.3% (24) 1.6% (120) 6.1% (446) 22.7% (1,652) 28.5% (2,075) 22.8% (1,664) 11.3% (826) 4.5% (330) 1.8% (133) 7,284
Pittsburgh 0.5% (38) 1.7% (127) 7.2% (525) 17.2% (1,252) 32.2% (2,348) 21.1% (1,534) 12.0% (877) 5.0% (364) 1.8% (133) 1.1% (83) 7,281
Western Michigan 0.2% (14) 0.1% (5) 0.1% (4) 0.0% (3) 0.3% (23) 0.5% (39) 2.5% (180) 10.2% (741) 38.7% (2,815) 47.5% (3,458) 7,282
Navy 0.2% (16) 0.1% (8) 0.2% (11) 0.5% (33) 3.2% (230) 7.3% (533) 15.7% (1,142) 25.1% (1,829) 27.9% (2,033) 20.0% (1,455) 7,290
Tulsa 0.2% (13) 0.1% (7) 0.1% (4) 0.2% (12) 0.9% (62) 2.6% (190) 7.7% (561) 17.6% (1,280) 36.6% (2,660) 34.2% (2,488) 7,277
Utah 0.4% (28) 0.9% (63) 2.9% (212) 7.2% (524) 20.4% (1,481) 21.9% (1,585) 21.1% (1,531) 14.6% (1,061) 6.1% (446) 4.4% (322) 7,253
Army 0.2% (12) 0.1% (5) 0.1% (7) 0.1% (7) 0.4% (30) 0.7% (54) 2.5% (180) 7.5% (541) 32.9% (2,382) 55.5% (4,021) 7,239
USC 2.2% (159) 6.8% (491) 14.2% (1,028) 19.4% (1,409) 28.1% (2,039) 12.8% (931) 8.5% (613) 4.8% (348) 1.5% (108) 1.7% (122) 7,248


68 thoughts on “The Results Are In: NDNation Probability Poll

  1. Is the poll designed to prevent me from choosing the same percentage for any two games on the schedule? I figured both Michigan State and BC were a toss up and tried 50% for each, but it only accepts one 50% selection.

  2. A lot depends on the health of our quarterback and the ability of the defense to stop the run early in the year.

  3. My father taught me this valuable lesson, learned when he was in marketing back in the Leahy era: every forecast will be false!

  4. 100% chance of FINALLY seeing a MOTIVATED, WELL COACHED team and a FIREY headcoach on the sideline!!!

  5. You should indicate if the games are Home or Away and the dates (although both are easily seen on the main NDNation page will help remind if we have an off date, etc.)

  6. Roy Churchill says:

    Can’t wait to see the new Irish. Should be a very great season with new coaches and more experienced team. Go Irish!

  7. Being a realist I’m concerned about the Conf. ref’s. Since the Big Ten will only have one shot, we will get their best and most biased for the Purdue game. Last years MSU and Mich. games are probably training films for all Conf. ref’s. For Pitt., assuming we stiil let Big East Ref’s in South Bend, we will probably get the 20 yard forward fumble crew. I assume some Physics Department proved Clausen could not fumble a ball that far without kicking it. I can only imagine who Stanford will bring from the PAC 10. None of those ref’s could have been admitted to either school, but they will play an important part. Winning 2 out of these 3 would be miraculous.

  8. Look for Coach Kelly to have many players rotate in on defense. First two games are confidence builders for Crist. We will definitely be better than last year.

  9. You know, I really think ND has the talent to beat every team on their schedule, now will they? more than likely no. I know it’s Kelly first year with the team, but if you remember back to when Charlie took over, that team was ready to go, I think the only thing this team lacks what the 05 team had was a experienced QB, which is huge, but maybe Crist can make it happen. 25 days away and I can not wait. GO IRISH!!!!

  10. theodore Kazmar says:

    Glad someone else is talking about the refs (officiating). Kelly talks about taking card of details, well the officiating is a very big detail that no one at ND seems to be taking care of. I still have a hard time believing anyone at ND with an ounce of sense would agree to the present officiating agreements (the one with Michigan is really like ND just accepted the fact they would lose the Michigan game at Michigan). There just cannot be any hope of a Championship season until the ND officiating agreements get cleaned up.

  11. One of the things that we often forget and to me is pivitol to a team’s sucess is “chemistry”. The first time I saw Coach Kelly on TV was during a game when one of his players had commited an unneccessary personal foul penality. When the player came to the bench he came right to Kelly and I couldn’t hear what they had to say but by their facial expressions I could tell that Kelly had his emotions under control and in a matter of fact manner was explaining the mistake to his player. The player looked down and nodded after the conversation. That impressed me. That showed me that the player knew what he did wrong and had a great deal of respect for Kellly in that he felt badly that he disappointed the coach. Chemistry starts with respect for the coach. They want to win for him as much as themselves and the university. That will get you 100% out of each player on every play.

  12. I see a 7-5 season. Losses to USC, Pitt, MSU and 2 more losses between Navy, Utah, BC, Mich, Stanford. I feel way too many ND fans have drank the new coach kool-aid all is well again drink. Hopefully I am wrong.

  13. Johnymac7906 says:

    I’m with Jimbo. Just filled out the poll and had to fight the urge to be optimistic. If I see a progression towards physical dominance in the 4th quarter, an ability to hit, wrap and plant (read: tackle) and a massive reduction in “Notre Dame players should not be called for these penalties” (personal fouls, too many men on the field, delay of game), 7-5 will be welcome indeed and may push me back towards the Pollyanna side of the camp. Go Irish!

  14. John L, "Larry" Delaney '60 says:

    I think a 10-2 season is possible!

    Defense is the key to a good season; offense should be terrific!

  15. I tend to be a polly at this time of year, so I’m probably over-optimistic about our chances. The best case scenario is a complete turnaround with an Ara type reemergence of Irish football. I can’t even imagine another Weis crash and burn finish. We have the schedule to run the table. With that said, there are too many variables to expect a shot at a NC. Talent, injuries, attitude, mental toughness, officiating and so many more things play into the equation; both for the players and the staff. I’d like to revisit this poll as a mid-term to see how we’re doing and if expectations have changed appreciably.

  16. Kelly worked miracles with team players that most people would agree were below the rating of those at nd. based on that I believe nd has 100% probability fo beating each opponnet.

  17. Bevo McGowan says:

    No predictions here. But hoping that we stay healty and injury free. That could be a big key especially in certain postitions where we are light on our depth chart. Kelly seems to have this team focused on team effort, conditioning and nutrution, weight training, and being prepared no matter where you are on that depth chart. So far I really like our new coach and his way of running his program. Sept. 4th will tell us much more. And I too cannot wait.

    “Go Irish”



  18. Tony Perrone says:

    If Kelly can’t do it, it’s the Ivy League for the Irish, once and for all. We’d then have to change our name to the “Smashing Irish” as in, aren’t we, Darling!

    • Remember our AD said BK was the best coach out there to guide the Irish. Of which I disagree but that’s anothe rmatter. If BK fails then its off to Princeton I guess.

  19. A successful (3-1) September could set the tone for a nine win season. Pitt, BC, and Utah will be tough. The USC game will be the sternest test; it could serve as the Trojans’ “bowl game.”

  20. IrishAyes8490 says:

    Jimbo is being pragmatic (and correct) — most likely we’ll be 7 – 5 this year; 8 – 4 with some luck. Eight wins would be a very solid season and improvement from the recent past. I remember Holtz’s first season — the best 5 – 6 team I ever saw — despite the record I was excited and energized by the team’s play — that’s the best thing we can hope for this fall — means more good things to come.

    • I really do not see the BCS talent level on this team. There is a lot of firepower on offense but a lot of it is unproven and of course Crist must stay healthy (also Floyd and Rudolph). The defense is no where near a BCS defense. I think that is obvious. ND is thin on the d-line, in-experienced at LB especially if McDonald starts over BS and way thin in the secondary.

  21. An eternal optimist, I expect 10-2 during the regular season. I am hoping for the year three magic that both Ara and Lou produced.

  22. I see a lot of roadblocks on this schedule, especially early in the season. However, none of them are insurmountable. Despite it being Purdue, any season opener with a new coach and two new systems is going to be nervewracking. How will the team adjust? Michigan is always a tough game, even when they have incompetence written all over their program. If we hadn’t lost last year, I wouldn’t be as worried. Michigan State will be in our top 3 toughest games this year, with Pitt and USC. With all that said, though, I am taking big gulps of the kool-aid this year. I have complete confidence that BK is the right man for the job at ND at this time. We likely won’t go undefeated this year, possibly not even to a BCS game, but I believe we’re on the right track finally. It’s rather unbelievable how night-and-day BK and CW are. We finally have a college head football coach who knows what the heck he is doing. It’s been 12 long years since the last one, and we saw how he worked out for us.

    • Erik 04,
      Say what you want about CW or BK. Bottom line will be one thing: WINS. All I have to say about BK is: coaching Cincy and coaching ND are 2 completely different animals.

  23. they will be better one only has to only listen to the young men talk, they are confident, they are stronger and they are football smarter….life has many lessons but confidence is the one toughest to master, from the sounds of things Kelly has begun to instill belief!

  24. Trying not to get too hyped about Kelly’s first year. 8-10 wins this season to setup next years run for the NC if Rudolph and/or Floyd stay and Cierre becomes a stud. The D could really be special by then.

  25. Jim Flaherty (Erasmus) says:

    My forecast assumes Crist does not get hurt. If he stays healthy, along with Te’o, I feel very good about the prospects for this team. This is largely a “gut” feeling, waiting to be “blown up,” but the sense I get, when listening to Kelly, reminds me very much of the summer of ’64, when Ara moved Duranko and Snowden to defensive tackle, Snow to receiver, and of course Huarte to first string QB. The feeling then was “there is talent on this team, but they lack discipline and players’ skill sets are not being utilized properly.” (And Huarte, like Criast, had injury issues– a bad shoulder but had elected not to get surgery in the spring.)

    Premature, I know, to compare Kelly and Ara, yet back in ’64 Ara, like Kelly, also had question marks. Sure, he had success at Northwestern, but his teams always faltered late in the season, plus he was the first ND coach not a graduate and a protestant to boot. Bottom line, I think Kelly has the potential to surprise and there is enough skill on this team (and weak schedule) to go 10-2 if they can escape key injuries.

  26. As long as we play with enthusiasm and competence, I’ll be happy! It’s been a long 15 years, so I, too, must fight the urge to be overly optimistic. I was on campus last week, and the overwhelming feeling is that things have changed and there is much excitement about this team and this coach.

  27. Thinking 8-4 this season. However, I’ll take issue with the fact that some think that Kelly’s past success assures success at ND. GVSU, CMU, and Cincy are not ND. Those schools don’t get the opponent’s best shot. ND ALWAYS get the opponent’s best. CMU can sneak up on teams and so can Cincy. Unless ND falls to total mediocrity, we’ll always get this. So, there’s no such thing as a sure win (see UConn last year) and BK will have to be attentive each week. The way I see it, Army and maybe Tulsa should be the only 80%+ games on the schedule.

    • Totally agree with what you said. I posted the same in an earlier post. Cincy and ND are two totally different planets regardless of record. Good luck BK.

  28. Excuse me. WMU should also be a 80%+ game. If the rest are a toss up (50% +/-) that’s a 7-5 or 8-4 season.

  29. Points well-taken about the complete failure of performance last November. ND was a team that gave up on itself, its coach and its fans. Why? Who knows, but if we think Kelly is the right guy for the job, then we have to believe that doesn’t happen again this year. So how do we get to 9 or 10 wins?

    Even last year’s team should have won all three of Michigan, Stanford and Pittsburgh — on the road for pete’s sake. This year they are the tougher ones at home, along with Utah. Still, we should win at least three of those four, without question. The real test for this team and this new coaching staff will be the three tough road games — MSU, BC and USC. Even so, I say they can and should win at least 2 of those 3, and frankly if they are to match the performance — not the record — of Lou Holtz’s 1986 team, they ought to win all 3. But that probably is drinking the Kool-Aid, so let’s say 2 of 3. That leaves 5 games they really shouldn’t lose, no way, no how. Among those 5 — Purdue, WMU, Navy, Tulsa, Army — only Purdue on opening day should give real cause for worry, just because it’s the first. From my point of view, this team should be a 10 game winner — if they play like they should, if Kelly & company can put them on the field with a good chance to win (a la Holtz and Parseghian) and if they don’t get bit with the injury jinx. 9-3 at worst.

    Go Irish!!

  30. Very few games that we shouldn’t be the favorites in. However, many of those games I expect we’d only be a slight favorite. With 4 or 5 cupcakes on there, even splitting the rest leads to an 8 win season. I think I’ve just decided that anything less than 8 is inexcusable, and 8 would be a disappointment. Of course expectations can and likely will change as the season is played out, but that’s now my preseason bar.

  31. I did a Monte Carlo simulation (n = 20,000) of the above data, and here are my results, based upon the “Wisdom of ND Crowds” (of course this is all crazy speculation until we see what Kelly can produce on the field):
    1. There is only a 0.5% chance that ND will win 4 or less games.
    2. There is an 8.1% chance of ND winning at least 11 games.
    3. There is a 51.3% chance that ND will win at least 9 games. However, it should be noted that ND fans are probably slightly optimistic, so don’t assume the “over” is necessarily the correct pick.
    4. There is only a 9.6% chance that ND will 6 games or less.
    5. The bell curve is, roughly, normally distributed around 8 and 9 wins, with the probability of 7 wins being 15.3% and 10 wins at 17.3%, 6 wins at 6.9% and 11 wins at 7.0%, 5 wins at 2.2%, and 12 wins at 1.1%.

  32. I’d say 8-4 or 9-3 is realistic. I think they’ll have some offensive growing pains with the new system but would like to think they’ll be more intense and fundamentally improved. For all we know Kelly could turn into Rich Rod II and struggle mightily but hopefully that won’t happen.

    ND fans have been burned so many times over the years with new coaches that I won’t get too excited if they demolish Purdue. If you recall, Weis trounced Pitt 42-21 and the offense and play calling looked Norm Chowesque during USC’s halcyon days. Things began to unravel towards the end of the 2005 season and it was pretty much a bumpy ride thereafter. Even Willingham got lucky in year 1 so we really won’t know what we have until well into Kelley’s second year.

    If Kelly goes 10-2 or 11-1 chances are half the coaching staff will be offered HC jobs elsewhere.

  33. NDBonecrusher says:

    I love the fact that so many fans have taken it upon themselves to do high level statistical analyses on a data set that we all agree is COMPLETELY biased. I’m serious. It proves just how big of fans you are. Somewhere, your math and science professors are smiling. Bravo, Calculating Irish!

  34. While I would generally agree with the previous post, that ND fans (and I am a big one) are too optimistic and corrupt the results; I agree the results of the “average” numbers of 8.5 wins. Personally, I’m thinking Kelly should win 8 games this year and anything above that is grace. Maybe the last few years of Charlie have made the sampling more realistic or pessimistic.

    Only other comments:
    + I would probably put Utah in the “Coin Toss” category.
    + And “Fans had the most disagreement about USC” surprises me. The USC talent is so deep that the change in coaches & probation will make little difference this year. I expect them to be almost as strong as every other year.
    + And as a general unrelated comment – why do people who follow other teams flock to ND sites (not just this one, but all sites) just to bash the Irish? Their insecurity over their team leads them to immature rants. It’s just embarrassing!

  35. Monte Carlo cannot predict what I experienced at ND in the 1964 season. The intangible that comes from a coaching staff that knows how to encourage young men and teach them to preform at their highest level. Couple that with a fan base that is also encouraging and not lifeless in the stadium and the results will be beyond expectation. CW did a great job recruiting some talented players and BK and staff has them believing in themselves again. I have not watched not read as much about ND football in many years. I am optimistic and encouraged that “the next man in” strategy has taken hold and the players know they will get a chance to play. Knowing that all the team is in great physical condition will allow the others on the team to step up and step in. If someone is going to start comparing to ALA, TEXAS, SC, FLA, go ahead but I believe that after the first team our second line players will match any in the country and the cream will rise as they have more playing time. I look for a top quality season above and beyond the paper analysis. We once again have a Notre Dame Spirit but this time it is in the hearts of the coaching staff, especially the head coach, and the players. Go Irish!

  36. I am so excited and hopeful for the Irish. BK has all the charateristics and coaching skills, in my opinion, of NDs Rockne,Leahy, Parseshgian, Devine and Holtz, Nds 5 greatest coach’s. Theses 5 men establised the saying ” The Luck of the Irish” which meaning is a well coached group of young men who will not give up, and who will fight to the end will Win….Can’t wait until September 4 2010 and so we can add # 6. Go Irish.

  37. Yes, the fact that the intro admits that the analysis has been wrong three years in a row (wonder how many years it’s been done) makes me smile at the ND enthusiasm. GO IRISH!!

  38. I would love to see the results of previous years polls compared to reality. I agree that the last 3 years should have tempered expectations a bit. So much in college football has to do with momentum and belief which is why both Weis and Willingham had great success their first year’s despite the program not being on solid ground. For that reason I think it entirely feasible that we could win anywhere from 6 to all games and USC could do the same. When the house of cards gets rocked good teams play poorly, see the Irish these past 3 years.

    • NDNation has been around for almost a decade, and we’ve been doing the probability poll for longer than “ClashmoreMike” has existed.

  39. It’s year one. I think that ND could win nine games. I think we could win six, too. Kelly seems to be a great coach but having lived through the swoon of Charlie, I would almost prefer to win 7 games this year, 9 games next year and a title in year three. I’d love to start out great but what I really want is improvement throughout the year.

    I want solid progress. Playing Purdue with four weeks prep time is a big task. Sure, Purdue lacks the history and the success of Notre Dame, but it has some consistency. We’ve had a lot of coaches — and not a ton of recent success. Going 7-5 would be disappointing. But week-after-week of improvement — especially between the tackles — is what I really want. And, Kelly is the guy to do it. So, while I’d be disappointed with a 7-5 season, I think we’re better than this and I think BK is better than this.

  40. Suffice to say that I will now start watching Irish football on Saturdays, again. It has been several years since I gave their TV games more than passing interest. This is from a person and a family that lives and dies with Irish football. Eternally optimistic, BK will win nine or ten games.

  41. At least this year’s voting results are more realistic than last year’s. In 2009, I got ripped for questioning HOW ND fans could put our odds of beating Navy at 100% after having recently lost to them. I got called out for not being a true fan because I “only” predicted 9 wins while everyone was predicting 11 wins or an undefeated season…Dr. Lou style.

    We finally have the coach to build this team back to greatness. However, anything more than 8 wins in 2010 would be truly magnificent. Remember, this team hasn’t played defense since year one of the Willingham regime. BK needs to teach tackling and technique to the entire squad, as those fundamentals were totally lacking. On the offensive side, we have a QB who took limited snaps last year and an O-line that was never taught proper technique.

    I think BK’s genius will truly start to show around midseason. However, let’s make sure not to underestimate Utah. That could end up being the toughest game on the schedule.

  42. Gaging progress: How about a couple of quality wins and ending the year with a flourish and not a fade, that would be nice.