Notre Dame is always one of the most polarizing teams when it comes to preseason rankings.
The Fighting Irish are coming off a 12-1 season but was handled by Alabama in the national championship game.
The offense should be better in 2013, especially with quarterback Everett Golson having another offseason under his belt. Notre Dame also returns a solid offensive line, and the defense will remain one of the nation’s best, despite losing linebacker Manti Te’o.
Notre Dame’s schedule isn’t easy, but the Fighting Irish navigated a tough slate to finish unbeaten last year.
The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.
Athlon Sports’ official college football top 25 countdown for 2013 will begin in early May. With the top 25 and predictions in mind, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.
Is Notre Dame a Top-Five Team for 2013?
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
This is a great debate that has many different angles to consider. Traditionally, the Irish play one of, if not the, most difficult schedules in the nation. So if Notre Dame wins 10 or more games, they generally have earned a lofty ranking. However, two losses would likely knock Brian Kelly's squad out of the top five. Home games with Oklahoma, Michigan State, USC and BYU are brutal while road trips to Michigan, Stanford and Pittsburgh (and Purdue and Air Force) are tough. As is the neutral site test with the likely Pac-12 South favorite Arizona State in Cowboys Stadium.
Offensively, Notre Dame should be better as Everett Golson has become the clear leader of this team now that Manti Te'o is gone. Defensively, replacing Te'o won't be easy but the defensive line and secondary could actually be better in '13. Does this team run the table in the regular season again in '13? I say no. But one loss, say, to the Wolverines early in the year on the road, won't knock them out of the top five. The Irish will go 11-1, get a another BCS bowl bid and finish justifiably ranked in the top five.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even though Notre Dame may lose a regular season game or two this year, I think there’s a chance the Fighting Irish are a better overall team in 2013. That may seem strange to say considering Notre Dame made the national championship game last season, but the Fighting Irish are deeper in terms of talent, and quarterback Everett Golson will be better in his second year as the starter.
Linebacker Manti Te’o will be tough to replace, but Notre Dame’s defensive line will be one of the best in the nation, and the secondary is in great shape after allowing only 199.8 passing yards per game in 2012.
Despite being a better team, I don’t think Notre Dame will be ranked in the top-five at the end of the season. Every break seemed to go the Fighting Irish’s way last season, and the schedule features tough road games against Michigan, Stanford and a neutral site affair against Arizona State. Notre Dame will play in a BCS bowl this season, but I think they finish just outside of the top five.
Mark Ross (@AthlonSports)
My initial inclination would be to say no, but then again I don't think anyone really predicted the Fighting Irish would run the table in the regular season last fall either. Motivation shouldn't be an issue for this team, considering how poorly Notre Dame performed in the BCS title game, but there will be no lack for competition atop the rankings either.
Starting with defending national champion Alabama, the SEC could have as many as three teams in the top five when you also throw Georgia, South Carolina and Texas A&M into the mix. Then there's Ohio State and possibly Michigan from the Big 12, Oregon and Stanford from the Pac-12 and Clemson from the ACC. That's without including anyone from the Big 12 (Oklahoma State? Oklahoma?) or a potential dark horse like Louisville from the AAC (former Big East) or Boise State from the MWC that has added a championship game to help improve its BCS profile.
In other words, there are a lot of teams Notre Dame would have to, in essence, climb over to get into the top five in the first place and then stay there. As was the case last year, the Irish do have one thing going for them - their schedule. As an independent, the Irish can largely dictate their own schedule, which because of established rivalries and other factors, is usually pretty strong. This season is no different with the aforementioned Cardinal, Sooners and Wolverines on tap, as well as Pac-12 contender Arizona State, BYU, Michigan State and USC.
It's really quite simple for Brian Kelly and his Irish - win them all (again) and they'll be right back in the BCS mix. Will they accomplish this in 2013? I have my doubts even though starting quarterback Everett Golson should be even better in his second season, and one of the nation's best defenses in 2012 returns eight starters including All-America candidates in linemen Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt.
It's not easy to win every regular-season game once, let alone twice in a row, and let's face it, Notre Dame got several fortuitous bounces and breaks last season on it way to 12-0 by the end of November. I don't see the luck of the Irish in full effect this fall and the strength of the schedule will result in at least one slip up. That doesn't mean Kelly can't lead his team back to a BCS bowl, but I do think the Irish will end up outside of the top five when the regular season ends.
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