Training camp has come to an end, and Monday the game preparation for Navy and the upcoming 2012 season begins in earnest.
In camp, there have been more encouraging reports than expected, with both night-terror inducing groups (wide receiver and the defensive secondary) each seemingly gelling, there is a growing sense of optimism around the football complex.
There are occasional mentions of "BCS".
The fanbase is hungry for a season that exceeds expectations.
It has been since Charlie Weis' first campaign in 2005 that a season exceeded expectations. That year Notre Dame began unranked, ran off nine wins and finished in the Fiesta Bowl.
More often than not, however, Notre Dame has entered a season with higher expectations. As recently as one year ago the Irish were thought to be BCS contenders. Yet, they stumbled out of the gate, lost in ridiculous self-inflicted fashion to South Florida and Michigan.
They were again victimized by turnovers in what became the theme of the 2011 season in losses to USC, at Stanford and in the Champs Sports Bowl to Florida State.
What was more frustrating was that Notre Dame seemed to be beating itself much more than the prevailing opponent did.
Heading into the 2012 season, it's hard to believe that the same failures could befall the team again.
22 turnovers from the quarterback position.
How Many Games will ND win in 2012?
Two 99-yard fumble returns for touchdown.
A .6 yard per punt return average.
A terrific knack for really poorly timed personal foul penalties.
Defensive backs that never, ever knew where the ball was nor felt it necessary to turn and look for it in flight, more often than not giving up huge pass plays or pass interference penalties (occasionally both on the same play).
Had any of the issues that plagued the Irish last year been better a year ago, there may have been fulfillment of the BCS talk.
Honestly, it could be as simple as, what if Jonas Gray never fumbles going into the end zone on the first drive of the first game, and Notre Dame scores?
The Irish more than likely beat South Florida going away, Tommy Rees never takes over after halftime and Notre Dame gains the confidence and momentum that it hasn't had in decades.
In college football, sometimes the difference between a 10-2 season and an 8-5 season is as simple as a fumble.
As we prepare for 2012, we have to ask the question "what if it all goes wrong?"
What if the defensive backfield isn't any better and Bennett Jackson doesn't deliver on the promise he has shown all spring and summer?
What if the injury to Austin Collinsworth depletes an already thin safety group, leaving Jamoris Slaughter and Dan McCarthy to shoulder too heavy a load?
What if Everett Golson can't grasp the reigns? What if he continues to struggle with formations and pre-snap adjustments? What if the turnovers from the quarterback position continue at such an alarming pace?
What if punting and punt returning remains apparently unrehearsed?
What if Notre Dame loses, as they are currently predicted to do by everyone at ESPN, to Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford, Oklahoma and USC.
Could the fanbase sustain a 7-5 season?
Could Brian Kelly keep his job, even if the losses are of the "we just got beat by a better team" variety?
The questions are many. Answers are few.
What if it all goes wrong?