The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are in uncharted territory this fall.
It's been a decade since Notre Dame started a season 6-0 and was looking down at Stanford and Michigan in the year's first BCS standings.
Therefore, if the Irish have an Achilles' heel this season, it's their inexperience. It's not that Notre Dame doesn't have any seniors on its roster or is playing a bunch of true freshmen at key positions. The Irish just haven't been on this type of stage in a long time.
Expect that inexperience to doom Notre Dame at some point in the second half of the season, especially with two mighty road trips scheduled against No. 9 Oklahoma and No. 10 USC.
Programs like Alabama, Oregon and LSU are no strangers to the attention or big games that come with being ranked highly. That's the norm for those top teams and others. They pass the torch from class to class and continue to win.
That has not been the norm for Notre Dame for some time now, and that's why Brian Kelly was brought in to rebuild the program in South Bend. After two 8-5 seasons, a 6-0 start is hard to argue with, but beware. The toughest opposition on the Irish's schedule has yet to come.
How do you think Notre Dame will fare in 2012?
In late October, Notre Dame will travel to Norman to play the Sooners. Bob Stoops' squad boasts the nation's ninth-ranked scoring offense, averaging over 43 points per game, and is coming off a 42-point win over Texas in the Red River shootout. Neither Michigan nor Stanford can compare offensively to the Big 12's perennial powerhouse.
That's where the inexperience will become magnified.
The Irish have played just one true road game—at Michigan State back in September—all season. They opened the season against Navy in Dublin, Ireland and stomped Miami (FL) at Soldier Field, but neither counts as a true away game.
Notre Dame's second-ranked scoring defense has been impressive thus far, of that there's no doubt, but it hasn't been tested against a potent offensive team outside of the Big Ten yet this fall.
Oklahoma and USC are two programs that are used to playing in big games with tons of BCS implications. Notre Dame simply is not. That will be the difference in the end for the 2012 Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame's newfound success will turn on it at some point this fall. Whether it happens in Norman this October, in Los Angeles the Saturday after Thanksgiving or both, Notre Dame isn't cut out to be a BCS champion just yet.
Brian Kelly is on the right track and laying a foundation for continued success, but sooner or later, the Irish will run out of track this season.
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