Notre Dame had a stellar year in college football throughout 2012, going 12-0 in the regular season before going down to Alabama in the BCS Championship Game.
With many of their 2012 stars turning to the fold this year, the Fighting Irish appear primed for success once more in 2013—even if it's not another near-perfect year.
Yet despite that, several key storylines and questions remain for Notre Dame to answer throughout the year, especially if they're planning on making another run at the title. What are those big questions remaining and how can the Irish answer them this year?
Read on and find out.
How can Everett Golson improve on 2012?
The first-year starter Golson showed plenty of promise under centre for the Fighting Irish, and will no doubt be even stronger than that in 2013.
The biggest question, though, is how is he going to improve, and what aspects of his game are truly going to become brilliant? He's already a dynamic dual-threat quarterback, but the biggest concern has to be about his ability to post big numbers when his team needs him most.
Just 12 passing touchdowns at less than 60 percent completion rate combined with less than 300 yards rushing do not show how good Golson was in 2012, but they do show his tentativeness to truly become an offensive weapon in 2013.
Confidence will no doubt help him improve on that this year, which he'll have more of with another year under his belt, but Golson once again appears the key for Notre Dame—especially with some big questions still remaining about their defense.
If the Irish are to succeed in 2013, it's going to be Golson that does it.
Who's going to fill the Manti Te'o-shaped void?
Linebacker Manti Te'o has been greatly talked about in the past few months—for both his on- and off-field reputation—but the truth is that the linebacker was huge for Notre Dame in 2012.
Te'o had 36 tackles, more than any other player did in 2012, and had seven of the team's 16 interceptions. His presence will no doubt be missed. Especially in terms of on-field leadership and direction, given that the linebacker used to call most of the pre-snap reads and the like.
Who will do that in 2013 still remains to be seen.
Jarrett Grace is touted as the man most likely to replace Te'o by Frank Schwab at Yahoo! Sports, but several big questions still remain about Grace's consistency.
Dan Fox will also be huge in terms of calling the pre-snap reads and continuing to develop into a dynamic pass-rusher who can fill up a gap inside.
Between those two guys in particular, Notre Dame will need to find enough skill and dominance to try and replace the Te'o-shaped hole in their team. The linebacker will no doubt be missed by the Irish in 2013; the question is just how much will they miss his presence?
Who will become the new starting running back?
Running backs Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick have both left Notre Dame to try their luck in the 2013 NFL Draft this year—meaning that the ground game from the Irish has suddenly disappeared. And given how successful and necessary it was in 2012 for them, getting new guys to step up and become the new starting running back is pertinent to their chances of success.
George Atkinson III has been impressive with limited carries for the Irish, whilst Cam McDaniel could offer some extra assistance coming out of the backfield.
The Irish also landed 5-star tailback Greg Bryant in the recruiting process this year, and while he won't become the instant starter at Notre Dame, he could end up showcasing his skills throughout the year at some point, given the right circumstances.
Whoever they choose to go with, Notre Dame must find the guys to complement the dynamic running game they had last year and keep their attack rolling.
It might just be the difference between boom or bust in 2013.
What do you think the biggest questions remaining for Notre Dame are?
Comment below or hit me up on Twitter: Follow @dantalintyre