Notre Dame Football: Why the Irish Are a Lock for BCS Bowl This Season
To all of the nay-sayers, disbelievers and haters of Notre Dame football: Take this opportunity to get all of the laughing and chuckling out of your system.
You may be feeling foolish for doing so at the conclusion of the Irish's 2012 regular season.
Brian Kelly's squad, which appears to be an above-average squad at the surface, is actually a lock for a BCS bowl game during the first week of January, 2013.
A majority of my loyal readers are likely thinking that I've, once again, consumed the "Kool-Aid" that many Notre Dame fans do on an annual basis. If that thought has crossed your mind, you're wrong.
This season's Notre Dame squad has the most realistic opportunity to secure a BCS invitation in Brian Kelly's three years as head coach. I'm crazy, aren't I? As ESPN's jovial College GameDay crew member Lee Corso says each and every weekend, "Not so fast, my friend."
Notre Dame's quest for a BCS bid received a shot in the arm today, as head coach Brian Kelly named Everett Golson as the Irish's starting quarterback (according to IrishIllustrated.com) on Sept. 1 against Navy in Dublin, Ireland. The Fighting Irish faithful have been awaiting that announcement since Tommy Rees' gut-wrenching performance against Florida State in last December's Champs Sports Bowl.
Golson gives the Fighting Irish a true spread quarterback, the type of player Brian Kelly has not had since Zach Collaros was exhibiting his explosiveness and athleticism for the Cincinnati Bearcats in November of 2009.
Simply imagine how dynamic the Irish offense will become with a quarterback who doesn't have cinder blocks tied to his ankles, a la Tommy Rees. Even with a one-dimensional quarterback such as Rees, the team scored an average of 29.2 points per game, which ranked the Irish 41st nationally in that statistic. Despite the absence of all-world receiver Michael Floyd, expect Golson to elevate the Irish offense to a top-25 scoring unit.
The quarterback position is only the tip of the iceberg for Notre Dame, though.
Brian Kelly and his staff have assembled a defensive front seven that Irish fans dreamed about during the days of Charlie Weis, Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie.
Nose guard Louis Nix and defensive ends Stephon Tuitt and Kapron Lewis-Moore form a ferocious defensive line, while Manti Te'o, Prince Shembo, Dan Fox and Ben Councell make up a fearsome linebacking corps.
Aside from Councell, each of the aforementioned defensive players are returning starters from a unit that yielded an average of 138.92 rushing yards per game. That figure placed the Irish 44th nationally in rush defense, a statistic that national championship-caliber teams pride themselves on (remember the past two national champion Alabama squads?)
With the amount of experience returning, a jump up the rushing defense board in 2012 certainly isn't out of the question.
Yet, the one concern on the mind of nearly every Notre Dame fan is the secondary, and for good reason. Presumptive starting cornerback Lo Wood is out for the season after tearing an Achilles tendon, effectively making a thin unit even thinner.
Sure, Wood had a tremendous interception return for a touchdown last season against Maryland, but that doesn't change the fact that he had played truly meaningful minutes in an Irish uniform. The same is true for fellow cornerbacks Josh Atkinson, Jalen Brown and newly named starter KeiVarae Russell.
Yes, those three are ripe and young, but as Brian Kelly attested to, their speed is without question. They'll make mental mistakes from time to time, but athleticism in the secondary will never be a worry. And with veteran secondary coaches Kerry Cooks and Bob Elliott there to teach, the learning curve may not be as steep as some expect.
All in all, this season's Notre Dame squad possesses the most talent that Brian Kelly has ever laid claim to during his career as a head coach. All three phases of the game are beginning to mesh in unison, showing a consistency that Kelly has preached about relentlessly during the past two seasons.
With consistency comes winning, and with winning comes reward.
That reward may just be a BCS bowl for Notre Dame.
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