Notre Dame had a disappointing end to the 2012 season, but the loss to Alabama in the BCS Championship shouldn’t overshadow what’s taking place in South Bend.
The Fighting Irish have made major strides under coach Brian Kelly, and there’s plenty of talent on the roster to make another run at a national championship in 2013 and 2014.
Most of the personnel from last year’s team returns, but the defense must replace linebacker Manti Te’o, while the offense must find a new go-to back with the departure of Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick.
Notre Dame has a tough schedule. But with quarterback Everett Golson returning, can the Fighting Irish get back to a BCS bowl in 2013?
The 2013 college football season is still a few months away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.
Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.
Notre Dame ranks as Athlon's No. 8 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.
Will Notre Dame Play in a BCS Bowl in 2013?
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
That question essentially asks if Notre Dame will finish in the top 14, the threshold for a team to receive at-large consideration to the BCS. No BCS game is going to pass on an eligible Notre Dame team if the Irish are available. Athlon has ranked the Irish eighth -- which is good enough for automatic BCS eligibility. Notre Dame may not finish the regular season that high -- especially with a finale at Stanford -- but the Irish should be able to crack the top 14. The defense might not be as dominant as it was last season with its headline player, Manti Te’o gone. But a trendy commentary on the Irish defense was that Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt were the key players. Time to see if that’s true. The Irish are going to face a lot of teams that will be physical up front and run-oriented -- Stanford, Michigan State, Michigan, Oklahoma and USC. The key may be Everett Golson. He has the potential to be the best quarterback on the field in nearly every game this season.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Considering all Notre Dame has to do is win nine games and land in the top 14 of the BCS, the odds are the Irish return to a BCS bowl this fall. The offense will be better with Everett Golson starting for the second season and the talent around him developing. The defense, despite the loss of Manti Te'o, won't take much of a step back as Brian Kelly has recruited at an elite level in the front seven. With Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt, this defensive line is one of the best in the nation. So the only thing preventing Notre Dame from another double-digit win season is a yet another brutal schedule loaded with bowl teams and national brands. Games with Oklahoma, Stanford, Michigan, Arizona State, USC, BYU and Michigan State makes this the toughest slate in the nation yet again. However, the Irish will only lose two of those games at most and, at 10-2, will have enough to snag a coveted BCS bowl berth.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
There’s no question Brian Kelly has Notre Dame moving in the right direction. The Fighting Irish is coming off an appearance in the national title game, and the on-field success has translated to top-10 classes on the recruiting trail.
Even though Notre Dame was easily handled by Alabama in the BCS Championship, this team should be in the mix for 10 or 11 wins in 2013. The offense played better in the second half of the season, and quarterback Everett Golson is due to break out with another offseason to work under Brian Kelly. While linebacker Manti Te’o must be replaced, the defensive line is one of the best in the nation, and the secondary allowed under 200 yards per game last season.
The schedule is challenging, with road games against Michigan and Stanford, home matchups against Michigan State, Oklahoma, USC and a neutral site affair versus Arizona State. However, Notre Dame should be able to rank inside of the top 10 in the BCS standings before the bowl games, which will ensure the Fighting Irish a chance to play in one of college football’s top postseason destinations.
Notre Dame surprised many a college football observer last season with its unexpected undefeated regular season that culminated in a spot in the BCS National Championship Game. Lackluster title game performance aside, the only reason the Fighting Irish were even in that position in the first place was because they went undefeated. With no conference affiliation to boost its BCS standing, Notre Dame is truly measured by its wins and losses. In other words, Brian Kelly's team can't afford many if they want to be a part of the BCS discussion by season's end.
The counter to this disadvantage, if you will, is the fact that as an independent, Notre Dame usually gets plenty of chances to show how good a team it is based on its schedule. To that end, this season is no different as the only team the Irish will face that did not play in a bowl game this season is Temple. To put it another way, the Irish will play a team from every "big six" conference except the SEC and several of these teams are expected to either be a contender in their respective conferences (namely Arizona St., Michigan, Oklahoma and Stanford) or top-25-caliber teams (BYU, Michigan St., USC).
Notre Dame certainly has a BCS-worthy schedule, the question is will the Irish get the wins they need to earn one of these coveted spots? My thinking is that ND would need no fewer than 10 wins in the regular season to be a serious part of the discussion. Even with all of the talent this team is returning, especially on defense, I see too many potential pitfalls for this team to put together double-digit wins by the end of November. It's another strong season for Kelly and the Irish, but they won't end it by fighting in a BCS game come January.
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