Can Manti Te'o lead the Irish to a national title appearance?
Thanks to a goal-line stand in overtime against Stanford, Notre Dame is 6-0 and off to its best start since opening 8-0 in 2002. The Irish have a favorable schedule the rest of the way, which features winnable games against BYU, Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest. However, matchups against USC and Oklahoma will decide how high this team can climb in the BCS standings.
Will Notre Dame Play for the National Title in 2012?
David Fox (@DavidFox615):
I do love that Notre Dame defense. Allowing one touchdown since playing Purdue is remarkable, considering that includes Michigan, Miami and Stanford. I’m confident Notre Dame can give Oklahoma and USC trouble later this season, which are the only real tests remaining for the Irish. Although it’s worked so far, I’m having trouble putting my faith in starter Everett Golson and closer Tommy Rees at quarterback. I’m a little leery of a football coach needing to go to the bullpen for his quarterback. That’s going to bite Notre Dame, and I think we’ve seen enough out of Oklahoma, if not USC, to make the Irish vulnerable.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
Notre Dame will not play for the national championship in 2012 because of quarterback play and a pair of nasty games with top ten national powers. Two late-season road trips to Norman to face Oklahoma and out West to play USC will be brutal road tests that Everett Golson— and/or Tommy Rees — will be forced to score points likely means at least one loss for the Irish. This is a truly great defense and with a 10 or 11 win season, Notre Dame can be deemed officially "back" on the national landscape. But to play for the BCS national championship, Brian Kelly's bunch will likely have to go unbeaten. And the odds don't appear to be in the Golden Domers favor.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven):
There’s no doubt Brian Kelly has Notre Dame going in the right direction. However, I think it’s too early to predict the Irish will make the BCS Championship in 2012. The biggest obstacle Notre Dame has to overcome is a schedule that features road games at Oklahoma and USC. The Irish are just 1-9 in their last 10 matchups against the Trojans, and the Sooners have not lost a non-conference home game since 2005. Although Notre Dame’s defense is one of the nation’s best, the offense has struggled at times, and redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson is going through a few growing pains. Even though the Irish will fall short of reaching the national championship, a 10-2 season with an appearance in a BCS bowl is nothing to be ashamed of.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch):
Notre Dame has been one of the nation’s biggest surprises in 2012. The defense has been amazing, holding four straight AQ conference teams (Michigan State, Michigan, Miami and Stanford) without an offensive touchdown. But I don’t believe the Irish will be in position to play for the BCS National Championship this season. Notre Dame has two very difficult games remaining — at Oklahoma in two weeks and at USC to end the season. It’s unlikely that the Irish will win both of those games; if they win one, which is possible, they could end the season with an 11–1 record. That would put them in the discussion, but my best guess is that Alabama and Oregon will both be undefeated and leave Notre Dame on the outside looking in.
Notre Dame is undefeated and came in at No. 5 in the initial release of this season's BCS standings. In some ways, the Fighting Irish control their own destiny because if they can win out and finish their slate without a defeat, they will have to be in the conversation for a spot in the national title game. That said, Notre Dame still has two tough hurdles remaining towards that goal and both of these games are on the road. Notre Dame travels to Norman on Oct. 27 to play a rejuvenated Oklahoma team and ends its regular season with a trip to Los Angeles to play long-time rival USC in the Rose Bowl. As good as Notre Dame has been this season, I just don't think they have enough offense to win both of these games and will end its regular season with at least one loss. Without the benefit of a conference championship game to help their resume, I think Brian Kelly will get the Irish back to a BCS bowl, it just won't be the national title game.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman):
It is difficult for me to project Notre Dame in the title game with tough road contests left against Oklahoma and USC, but Brian Kelly’s bunch has the defense to beat anyone on its schedule. The Fighting Irish have been absolutely stingy on defense, led by All-America linebacker Manti Te’o and emerging star end Stephon Tuitt. ND has only given up 25 total points in its last four wins (Michigan State, Michigan, Miami and Stanford) and is the only team in the nation to not allow a rushing touchdown this season. Another huge reason for the Irish perfect start is a plus-8 turnover margin. In last year’s opening losses to South Florida and Michigan, ND turned the ball over 10 times. This season, the offense has only seven giveaways in six games. Quarterbacks Tommy Rees and Everett Golson will struggle if it becomes a high-scoring contest with the Sooners or Trojans, so I’ll say that the Irish will lose once and not play for it all. However, ND has the defense to run the table and will be a tough out in the BCS.
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