Notre Dame Football 2012: Realistic Expectations Without Michael Floyd
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Notre Dame football’s last five seasons have fluctuated to an incredible extent. Just five years ago, quarterback Brady Quinn was running onto the field.
Knute Rockne’s house would erupt when leading Penn State 41-3 at one point in the second game of the season. The team was ranked No. 2 in the country.
Just a week later, Irish eyes were sobbing. Michigan shredded coach Charlie Weis’ star quarterback and put up 47 points against a team that held Penn State to just 17 a week earlier.
After that 2006 loss, the team never really snapped back into a realistic BCS Championship contender during the season. It ended by getting thumped by JaMarcus Russell and LSU in the Sugar Bowl.
It wasn’t just the 2006 team that didn’t live up to fans’ expectations. Since that Penn State win that sent ND nation into a state of euphoria, what’s actually happened?
Weis lost Quinn to the 2007 draft, as well as running back Darius Walker and record-breaking receiver, Jeff Samardzija. His team was never the same.
A disastrous 2007 season and mediocre 2008 and 2009 seasons with 5-star high school quarterback Jimmy Clausen paved the way for Weis’ firing.
Since former Big East coach of the year Brian Kelly entered the picture, Notre Dame hasn’t really peaked. Its win against Miami capped an excellent ending to Kelly’s first season.
Will Notre Dame reach seven wins in 2012?
His 2010 team also brushed aside Utah, which was ranked in the top 10, on senior day and beat up on a weak Army team that gained national attention because of the venue (Yankee Stadium).
A memorable win over a Matt Barkley-less Southern Cal—in addition to the bowl win over Miami—led Irish fans to unrealistic expectations for the 2011 season.
Yes, All-American receiver Michael Floyd returned and snapped every all-time Notre Dame receiving record in the process. But sophomore Tommy Rees was the one slinging the ball to Floyd every time. The defense was still a work in progress.
Will Notre Dame be any better this fall? Will a quarterback who can throw a fade, or a deep ball, actually start? Will the defense step up and rank in the top 10 nationally? Can the offense strike fear in the eyes of opponents without Floyd?
The answer to most questions is, quite frankly, no.
This team is still a work in progress. The losses of Floyd, safety Harrison Smith and freshman phenom Aaron Lynch—who transferred—don’t help the cause. But what’s a realistic measuring stick for the 2012 season?
A 6-6 season is very likely. With a young team—one that will most likely be experimenting with its new quarterback on offense—Kelly should realize seven or eight wins would exceed realistic expectations.
Bruce Feldman of CBSSports.com ranked Notre Dame’s schedule as the toughest in the country. If last year’s expectations included a BCS-worthy season—and ended with an 8-5 record for the second year running—Notre Dame fans should come to the realization that this season’s schedule is much tougher. Don’t book a plane ticket to a BCS bowl game anytime soon.
The “Blue Gray Sky” that sportswriter Grantland Rice referenced when describing Notre Dame’s backfield in the early 1900s is looking more like a thunderstorm heading in the direction of South Bend, Ind.
If Notre Dame fans stick with the team, they should expect a solid season—eight or nine wins—in 2014, after a three-year starter has been able to solidify his role at quarterback.
But until then, sit back and get ready for a bumpy ride. Notre Dame’s 2012 season is looking bleak, and it hasn’t even kicked off yet.
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