Before the season started for Notre Dame, there were many questions surrounding the program.
Who would play quarterback? How would the defensive line react after losing Aaron Lynch to a transfer? How will the secondary shape up after losing much of the experience? Who will step up at wide receiver after losing Michael Floyd?
After a 3-0 start and a convincing win over Michigan State, those questions have vanished. The Irish have their eyes set on a possible BCS run, and although the road remains a bumpy one as far as the schedule is concerned, the Irish have shown everyone that the talent is there to surprise people this year.
Which brings us to another question—with Notre Dame somewhat joining the ACC soon, how would this year’s squad fair against some of the top competition in the new conference? The ACC has a few competitive teams, with a couple currently in the top 10 of the AP Poll.
Here are predictions for how the Irish would stack up against the top competition if they were already members of the ACC in 2012.
Offense: Georgia Tech is by far one of the worst passing teams in the country, as the Yellow Jackets average less than 160 yards in the air per game.
Quarterback Tevin Washington is a much better runner than passer, which is why the offense runs a ton of zone-read plays and is one of the best rushing teams in the country, averaging over 370 yards on the ground.
Defense: Defensively, they are one of the best in the conference, returning six starters from last year and allowing less than 300 total yards this season.
They have six sacks so far this season, have forced five turnovers and hold their opponents to under 30 percent conversions on third down attempts.
Overall: The Yellow Jackets are a very simple team. If you control the running game, there is a terrific chance you are going to win the ball game. Notre Dame was able to hold the triple-option Navy attack to under 150 yards, and they held Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell to 77 yards on the ground.
The Irish have proven the front seven can control the ground game, which makes me believe Notre Dame would win its fourth out of six matchups against Georgia Tech.
Offense: The Miami offense is only going to go as far as freshman running back Duke Johnson carries it. He is averaging nine yards a carry, has 248 yards on the ground and has scored six touchdowns already.
Quarterback Stephen Morris isn't as polished as many thought he would be and continues to make bad decisions with the football. Basically, if it's not Johnson being a threat on the ground or in the air, this offense struggles to move the chains.
Defense: For a team that returned six starters on this side of the ball, you would expect the defense to be much better than what it is. Miami is 11th in the ACC, allowing 463 yards a game, including over 200 yards on the ground.
The front seven struggles to pressure the quarterback, and the Hurricanes are allowing over 47 percent of third downs to be converted.
Overall: Luckily, we will have a chance to see how these two teams stack up when they meet later in the year. But even with this matchup still a couple of weeks away, you have to go with the Irish once again.
Notre Dame has already shown they won't let one guy beat them offensively, and the offense of the Irish is balanced enough to score points on that horrible Miami defense.
Offense: For the first time in forever, Virginia Tech does not have a solid running game. The Hokies ranked 98th in the country running the ball and four out of the five guys who have at least 10 carries are averaging less than four yards a touch.
Quarterback Logan Thomas is this offense, but he is still painfully inaccurate with the football and still makes bad decisions quite often.
Defense: This is Virginia Tech we are talking about, and while this unit may be slightly overrated this season, the Hokies are still 41st in points allowed and are allowing less than 35 percent conversions on third down.
I would like to see more game-changing plays from this experienced unit, but you know what you are going to get from a football team coached by Frank Beamer.
Overall: It really depends on where this game is being played before I say Notre Dame can win. On paper, the Irish look like the better team, but if this game is in Blacksburg, a lot of that can be thrown out the window.
Still, I have to give the edge to Notre Dame, as the Hokies are way too inconsistent on the offensive side of the ball to be considered contenders.
Offense: What's to say about the offense of Clemson?
Quarterback Tajh Boyd is playing the best football of his life at the moment, completing 73 percent of his passes and limiting his turnovers. Running back Andre Ellington is averaging over six yards a carry, and then, of course, you have the wide receiver duo in DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins.
Overall, this unit can score points in a hurry and is without question the best offense in this conference.
Defense: Defensively, this team still has a lot of improvements to make, but seems to be improved after too many horrible performances last season.
Right now the unit is ranked seventh in the conference, allowing over 360 yards a game, but still struggles to get pressure on the opposing quarterbacks. This will continue to be a work in progress for Clemson.
Overall: I really like this Clemson offense and believe it can do great things this year, especially with Watkins coming off suspension.
But with a defense that can't get stops consistently, I have to go with Notre Dame because they seem to be a complete team.
Close matchup, but the more balanced squad usually ends up winning.
Offense: It's hard to judge this Florida State offense because the Seminoles have yet to play anybody that is relevant in the first three weeks.
The running game has been phenomenal early on, averaging 279 yards and the offensive line has only allowed three sacks.
The jury is still out on quarterback EJ Manuel, who isn't a 71 percent completion passer. It will be interesting to see this offense against a quality defensive opponent.
Defense: If you haven't heard it by now, Florida State is the best defensive team in the country at the moment.
Allowing only 103 total yards a game, picking up 11 sacks, four turnovers and allowing less than 12 percent of third downs to be converted.
This is a scary unit that has a ton of depth and will be the reason this club is in every game the rest of the way.
Overall: This would be the best matchup to watch, as both teams appear to be on the rise at the right moment.
The defense of the Seminoles is truly the real deal, but the offense is not as effective as what we have seen over the last three weeks.
However, it would be foolish to think that a first-year starting quarterback could go up against Florida State and its defense and play well enough in a tough environment, which is why I give Notre Dame the nod in South Bend and Florida State the advantage in Tallahassee.