Notre Dame Football: The Irish Must Build on Their Hot Start

Kyle O'Connor@@oconnorkyleContributor IIISeptember 27, 2012

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 22: Davonte' Neal #19 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish encourages the crowd before a game against the Michigan Wolverines at Notre Dame Stadium on September 22, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Michigan 13-6. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It's been a fun first month, hasn't it?

Most Notre Dame fans would have been pretty content going into the bye at 3-1; they're downright ecstatic heading into the weekend 4-0. The record alone is not the most surprising aspect, it's how they've gone undefeated. Irish fans have grown used to seeing the offense put up numbers, score with anyone and be the bread and butter of the team. This year? That's not the story.

Thirty-six. That's how many points this Irish defense, led by Manti Te'o, has given up so far this season. Let me remind you, the Irish are not playing pushovers. Thus far, they've taken out Navy, Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State.

To put it another way, they've wiped out the class of the Big Ten. The Michigan schools couldn't even find the end zone against the improved Irish defense. If the secondary can hold up—and it will if the front seven keeps applying pressure the way it has been—this defense will be a solid unit the rest of the season. 

While it's great to see a Notre Dame defense get national attention and praise, the downside to the quick start is that the offense has looked, frankly, rough. Everett Golson, expected to have a monster season by many, has thrown for a little over 600 yards and has three interceptions to go along with his three touchdown tosses while being pulled for Tommy Rees twice.

The running game that looked so solid in the opener has regressed a bit, now averaging a mediocre 3.8 yards per carry on the season. As far as catching the ball? The leading receiver on the team is Davaris Daniels, with a whopping 159 yards on the short season. 

However, there are plenty of reasons to feel optimistic about the offense. Golson will become more and more comfortable as the season moves along. Cierre Wood has averaged over five yards per carry since returning from his two-game suspension, he and will touch the ball more often as the season progresses.

Tyler Eifert has been neutralized most of the season thus far, but you can expect that to change as the offensive staff will come up with more creative ways to get him the ball coming off of the bye week. Finally, the freshman will become more involved in the game plan with each passing week. The word out of South Bend is that the staff is getting more comfortable with Chris Brown each day, and eventually they are going to unleash the freshman and allow him to stretch the field. 

Notre Dame has a chance to have a special season, the third under head coach Brian Kelly. The three big games remaining on the schedule are Stanford at home and trips to USC and Oklahoma. If Notre Dame takes care of business with the rest of its schedule and takes one of the big three, the Irish will find themselves in a BCS game.

At this point, that should be the one and only goal for Notre Dame. If Brian Kelly and staff want to build a perennial contender, it needs to start with a BCS appearance this season.

Follow Kyle on Twitter: @oconnorkyle