Michigan vs. Notre Dame: Why This Might Be the Irish's Best Defense in 20 Years

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterSeptember 20, 2012

Sep 15, 2012; East Lansing, MI, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te'o (5) walks onto the field before the game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE

Even with the secondary issues, as this young season grows older, we seem to be looking at a Notre Dame Fighting Irish defense on the verge of greatness. This unit, giving up just 10 points a game, is slowly shaping up to be the best Irish defense we have seen in a long time. Like, two decades of a long time.

With the way this front seven is shaping up and when it comes to how stout this defense can be, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco should have Irish fans thinking back to the Lou Holtz era.

In 1992 and 1993, the Irish gave up 15.1 and 17.9 points, respectively, and the defense was anchored by Bryant Young. This defense has an anchor of its own in Louis Nix III, and it also has one of the best leaders in college football making it all work, Manti Te'o.

While the schemes are different, the teams from both eras get it done up front, a timeless hallmark of a sound defense. It doesn't matter if it's Notre Dame or Florida State or Alabama or Oklahoma—the defensive front is where great defenses are created.

For the 2012 Fighting Irish, this is the best defensive front they have had in a really long time.

This Fighting Irish team can get to the quarterback and stuff the run, and that has helped mightily in taking pressure off of the young secondary. The season is only three games old, and going forward, expect them to take a lump or two as they play more pass-happy teams like USC and Oklahoma.

However, football is won in the trenches, and unlike the 2002 defense that held opponents to 16.7 points a game, this 2012 unit has the means to win every battle up front.

As this team moves toward having one of Notre Dame's great defenses, it has to remember to play one game at a time. The players need to take care of their assignments and most certainly bring that brawler's attitude to the field every day.

The sky is truly the limit for this defense, and it sees its next task in the upcoming game against Michigan: stopping Denard Robinson. The path to greatness includes going through Matt Barkley and Landry Jones, but it starts with Shoelace.

How the Irish handle a task at which they most certainly failed a season ago will say plenty about how great they can and want to be.

It's too early to crown the Irish yet, and the same goes for Alabama's and LSU's defenses, but etching their names in the annals of history is most certainly within their grasp as the season progresses.