Leading into the college football season as the No. 1 team has become as bad of a label as the Sports Illustrated cover—it’s pure bad luck.
That being said, a win for Notre Dame over Alabama in the BCS National Championship game will lead to the dreaded No. 1 preseason ranking.
The Irish return seven starters on defense from this season, and they bring back starting quarterback Everett Golson and a handful of skill talent.
Notre Dame does lose Manti Te’o to gradutation, but the team will have a lot of talented and experienced guys who will step into the vacancies left by the Irish stars.
Another concern will be the backfield. Cierre Wood's mom told the Chicago Tribune in November that he was "70-30, he's leaning that he's taking it to the next level."
Dynamic back Theo Riddick will also be gone.
Still, the Irish return George Atkinson III who is expected to be better than both Wood and Riddick, and they received a commitment from one of the top running backs in the country when Greg Bryant pledged to Notre Dame just days ago.
Preseason No. 1s are based off of looks, and Notre Dame looks the part heading into the 2013 season.
The Irish have a star quarterback, a solid rusher in George Atkinson III and stud lineman Louis Nix returning. Voters will see that lineup and drop a check by No. 1 with ease.
This is a program on the rise, and one of the most nationally prominent brands in college football. Notre Dame has its own independent licensing agreement on merchandise and is the only school to have its own television contract with a major network.
People will follow Notre Dame if it lands at No. 1. It will bring eyes to the game that aren’t already there. The Irish have that type of allure and marketability.
The biggest factor for this Notre Dame team may not be if they win, but how they win.
Alabama has destroyed virtually every opponent this season, save two.
Texas A&M successfully knocked off the then-No. 1 Crimson Tide, and LSU challenged Alabama until the bitter end, forcing a late drive for the Tide to pull out the win.
Both the Aggies and the Tigers employed fierce defensive schemes against the Tide, applying constant pressure and stuffing the middle of the field against the run.
Georgia succeeded in the same way during the first half of the SEC title game but let go in the second half and lost the game.
Alabama can be beaten, but Notre Dame has to find a few explosive plays on the offense to seal the win and a No. 1 ranking.
The Irish are America’s college football team, though, so the additional pageantry that comes with Notre Dame being No. 1 could help the cause.
At the very least, the Irish will have Lou Holtz lobbying for No. 1 on College Football Live. Maybe a national title win will bring back the “Dr. Lou” segment as well.
This is a big finish for a program that no one legitimately thought had a shot at an undefeated run. If Brian Kelly can lead the Irish to a win, they will be the consensus No.1 to start 2013.
Even if the Irish lose the title game, they will still begin the year as a Top Five selection. The future of college football will be paved in gold as the Irish lead the way to titles in the coming years.