Sometimes, the schedule is bigger than you are. That has never been more true than for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in 2012.
They have road games against Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC. They welcome Michigan and Stanford to South Bend. BYU and Purdue will be anything but pushovers. Miami remains a wild card.
Is it really so crazy to think Notre Dame could finish 7-5 or 6-6 this season?
The team is heading into the season with Everett Golson at quarterback, he of exactly zero experience at this level. And should he falter, the alternatives—Andrew Hendrix and Tommy Rees—aren't exactly inspiring.
The secondary is thin and a huge question mark. Running back Cierre Wood is suspended for the first two games. Michael Floyd, the team's most consistent weapon from a year ago, is gone. Tyler Eifert should have a big year at tight end, but will the team's young receivers step up?
Oh, and Brian Kelly is a sideline rant away from spontaneously combusting.
Notre Dame should be very good at running the ball and shutting down the run this year, but teams with solid passing attacks could potentially carve up the Irish. Ball control will be a must. Limiting turnovers and finding a way to create them will be a central theme.
But it goes deeper than just the game—you even have to wonder if this team has the proper mentality.
After all, Notre Dame hasn't won more than eight games in five years. Expectations haven't been met in quite some time. I know players come and go, but you have to wonder if the changing perception about Notre Dame—that it no longer is a college football power, not even close—trickles down to the players.
Has Notre Dame football developed an inferiority complex based simply on its inability to live up to its own hype?
It's a question worth pondering in 2012. Still, few could blame this team for struggling given the schedule they will face. Better teams than they would struggle against the competition they'll face. Perhaps the Fighting Irish can lean on that when judging themselves.
Because this team will make it six years without exceeding eight wins. The schedule is simply bigger than they are.
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