Notre Dame Football: Fighting Irish Will Improve on Last Season's Results

Ben Chodos@bchodosCorrespondent IISeptember 2, 2012

STANFORD, CA - NOVEMBER 26:  Manti Te'o #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in action against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Stanford, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have had two consecutive 8-5 seasons under Brian Kelly, but an impressive performance against Navy is a sign that the team is ready to win more games this year.

The Irish defeated Navy 50-10 in their opening game. Running backs Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III had fantastic performances, each scoring two touchdowns.

With 293 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, it's no secret Notre Dame’s success will come through the running game. With this one-two punch in the backfield, the team will find success with this strategy. 

On defense, senior linebacker Manti Te’o led an aggressive group that smothered the Navy offense. The highlight of the game came when defensive end Stephon Tuitt picked up a fumble and ran 77 yards for a touchdown.

With a stout defense and a solid running game, Kelly has a formula to win more than eight games this season.

It certainly won't be easy considering Notre Dame’s difficult schedule. The Irish have 12 regular season games, and play five teams currently ranked in the Top 25.

They will face No. 13 Michigan State then take on No. 8 Michigan the following week. Mid-season matchups with No. 21 Stanford and No. 4 Oklahoma will be difficult, but no game will be tougher than playing at No. 1 USC.

If the team loses all five of these games, then win out for the rest of the year—including a bowl game victory—will only put them at eight wins. Beating Oklahoma or USC will be near impossible, but Notre Dame’s style can keep them in the game against the other three teams.  

By keeping the ball on the ground and playing stingy defense, the team will challenge the two Michigan schools and Stanford. In a slow, grind-it-out game, Notre Dame stands an excellent chance. These games will come down to which team capitalizes on the few chances it gets and commits the fewest turnovers.

The Irish are experienced and disciplined, and they will win one of these three games. That will bring them to an 8-4 record during the regular season and this will certainly earn them a place in a bowl game.

With senior leadership on the defensive side of the ball and talented running backs, Notre Dame will get to nine victories for the first time since 2006.