Just asking the question, could this finally be year the Notre Dame returns to prominence, elicits groans from college football fans who have been force-fed the hype for years. The talk is rarely generated by the Fighting Irish's improved play, but rather a yearning by the sports media for college football's most iconic program to return to prominence.
This year however, Notre Dame could be a legitimate BCS Championship contender.
The Irish are coming off a dominant victory over Navy. The fact that Notre Dame beat a mediocre Navy squad is not that impressive. The dominant nature of the victory, however, showed that this team has little resemblance to last year's bumbling turnover-prone squad.
Last week, against Navy, they showed that they could.
Notre Dame will have to continue to play near perfect football if it hopes to survive its brutal gauntlet of a schedule. The Irish cannot afford any mistakes when they visit a very strong Michigan State team in East Lansing, square off against Oklahoma in Norman or battle a dominant USC squad in L.A.
Notre Dame should not be favored in any of those three games.
However, if Notre Dame plays its best football against each of those teams (and gets a few lucky bounces), it could very well end the season having claimed wins over the best squads in the Big-10, Big-12 and Pac-12.
It would be a resume that demanded a trip to the title game.
It is more likely that Notre Dame loses an absurdly winnable game (looking at you, Purdue and Pittsburgh) and that the "Irish are back" talk will be stopped dead in its track.
The talent is there though, and maybe—just maybe—for the first time since Lou Holtz roamed the sidelines, South Bend boasts a legitimate title contender.