Notre Dame has stepped into the Top 10 of the AP Poll as a legitimate contender for a national title. The 2012 Irish have finally paired a solid defense with a progressing offense. Bold predictions are beginning to fill the air, as Notre Dame attempts to push through the remaining 2012 games.
There have been struggles at times, but Notre Dame remains unbeaten. The Irish have thrived off of its defense which has been very stingy against the run. Manti Te’o has been the leader, taking this defense to new heights. Only Alabama has been better this year.
Notre Dame is playing two quarterbacks by necessity, but the result has not been a disaster. The ACC is wishing the Irish would just join as a full member after this start, but they will take what they can get.
Here is a look at what the rest of the 2012 season could bring for the Irish.
Everett Golson has been the biggest impact surprise for the season in South Bend. Golson stepped into the starting role for the Irish after an offseason arrest benched Tommy Rees for the first game.
In the past few games, Golson has faced limited snaps due to injury, but he came off the bench against Miami (Fl.) this weekend completing 77.3 percent of his passes. He also rushed for 51 yards.
On the season, the Irish have not been able to rely heavily on the passing game. It hasn’t been an issue yet, but the lack of an air attack can destroy this team’s hope for championships.
Golson has three touchdowns, but he also has three interceptions. The young quarterback needs to find consistency in the next few weeks or it could be a struggle to continue on this undefeated run.
Manti Te’o has faced a tough season off the field in 2012, but on it he has been unbelievably good. Te’o is in the driver’s seat for the Butkus Award.
Te’o is averaging just over nine tackles a game, and he has snagged three interceptions so far this season. That has him tied for No. 9 in the country for interceptions.
There have been three games this season in which Te’o has had over 10 stops. His best game was against Michigan State—the performance that came after the deaths of his grandmother and close friend.
There is not another linebacker in the country that has provided the leadership that Te’o has for the Irish.
Notre Dame has been the talk of the national college football scene this season and for good reason. One of the most impressive developments for the Irish this fall is the defense.
The Notre Dame rushing defense is ranked No. 17 in the country, while the squad is the No. 2 team in scoring defense.
The Irish are No. 13 in total defense with seven games remaining on the schedule. There are some explosive offenses that wait down the road—most notably USC—but the Irish are well on their way to a top-5 defensive performance this season.
Did anyone see this coming?
The Irish continue to climb in the Top 25 after blasting Miami (Fl.) this past Saturday. The Irish are now the consensus No. 7 team in the country.
This Saturday, Notre Dame will play host to the No. 17 Stanford Cardinal. Stanford has been very mediocre this season outside of a big upset win over USC. Stanford lost on the road to Washington and narrowly escaped Arizona in overtime.
Stanford is missing Andrew Luck this season, and teams that focus on stopping Stepfan Taylor will be successful against the Cardinal. The Notre Dame defense will be excited and ready for the challenge.
Everett Golson should have success in the air. The Cardinal have the No. 113 pass defense in the country. A big day from Golson and another day at the office for the defense will lay out a big win for Notre Dame.
The last time that Notre Dame made it into a BCS Bowl was the 2006 season. The Irish faced off against then-No. 4 LSU in the Sugar Bowl, losing the game 41-14.
The Irish have not had the best of luck in BCS games, losing all three appearances that they have made in those contests since 1998.
This season could not only render a BCS bowl bid for the Irish, but possibly the first win in the series for Notre Dame. A lot of football is left to be played, but the Irish have positioned themselves well to make a run to the biggest stage in college football to close this season.
There have been some impressive coaching performances this season, but the most notable has taken place in South Bend.
Notre Dame has the chance to return to the national elite this season, and Brian Kelly has been working his tail off to get them there. For the past few years, the popular line was that the Irish were no longer able to make it to the top of college football.
Don’t tell Kelly that.
If the Irish continue the rapid ascension up the ranks of college football by season's end, Brian Kelly should be the coach of the year. The way he has brought along the young Golson and an injury-riddled defense has been impressive.
USC has been very inconsistent this season, but the Trojans are still a very good football team. Matt Barkley has led the offense very efficiently, but the Trojans have struggled defensively.
USC has also been undisciplined, turning the ball over and facing a ton of penalties all season.
Notre Dame travels to Los Angeles to conclude the season against USC. The trip won’t be an easy one, and there will be offensive scoring. By the season’s end, Golson will have a firm grip on the offense and the starting job for Notre Dame.
Expect the Trojans to try and throw a lot at the Irish offensively and to fail consistently. The Irish will win the jeweled Shillelagh this November. It may not even be close.
George Atkinson III is the leading rusher for the Irish through the first five games. He has the fewest carries of the three primary backs on the Irish roster, but he has managed to make the most of his carries, averaging 9.3 yards a carry so far this year.
Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick have also been playmakers on the ground for the Irish, but Atkinson has really started to impress.
This past Saturday he was given the most carries he has received so far this year, finishing the game with 10 carries and 123 yards.
The Irish will continue to employ a running back by committee type approach, but expect Atkinson to continue to grow into his role with the offense. Notre Dame will get him more carries in the next seven games.
Boston College is sitting at 1-4 and looking paltry this season. It plays host to Notre Dame in the second week of November, and the Golden Eagles will be bringing their best against the Irish.
Boston College has been terrible defensively, but the passing attack is currently the No. 16 unit in the country. Chase Rettig has been effective from the pocket, tossing 10 touchdown passes and only three interceptions.
Andre Williams has also been good offensively for the Golden Eagles, rushing for 369 yards on 79 carries. Williams has additionally accounted for four rushing touchdowns.
A loss to Army this past Saturday does make the Golden Eagles' season look bleak, but they will muster a strong performance against Notre Dame. Expect this game to stay close well into the fourth quarter.
The Notre Dame defense has been very stingy with yards and points this fall. The Irish have only given up three total touchdowns so far this season.
The Notre Dame defense has been scary good. Both the rushing and pass defenses are ranked in the Top 10, and the Irish are No. 2 in scoring defense.
Michigan and Michigan State did not even flirt with the end zone in their losses to Notre Dame earlier this season. It has been an impressive performance so far that could lead to a really surprising outcome.
Notre Dame can’t survive a shootout against anyone this fall. The offense is simply not there yet.
The Irish can control the football and opposing offenses. Don’t be too surprised when the Irish keep their schedule from scoring more than 10 total touchdowns this fall.