Like it or not, Tommy Rees is going to be the starting quarterback for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish for the 2013 season—or at least the start of it. But don’t worry. He’s going to prove all of his doubters wrong.
Rees didn’t see a lot of time on the field this past season due to the emergence of Everett Golson. But Matt Fortuna of ESPN writes that, with Golson suspended for the fall, the senior is ready to step back into the role that was once his. Rees was never a Heisman Trophy candidate, but he wasn’t horrible when he was on the field in the past.
There’s no question that many will try to compare Rees in the upcoming year to Golson from last year. That's primarily because Notre Dame’s main quarterback from last year was very impressive. He threw for 2,405 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he took the Fighting Irish to the BCS National Championship Game.
While those numbers and final destination may be tough to match, Rees is going to be ready for the challenge. Knowing he’s the leader of the offense heading into the season can go a long way for Rees, and his confidence has to be through the roof, even though he probably wouldn’t be starting with Golson active.
Some may believe Rees won’t be ready for the challenge of leading Notre Dame this season, but those people are going to be wrong. He’s going to make the most of this opportunity, without question. It might seem like a pipe dream now, but with a great campaign, he could find himself on an NFL team this time next year.
Don’t expect the minimum from Rees when he takes the field against Temple on August 31. He’s not going to fail and force head coach Brian Kelly to throw someone else in under center. Rees will flourish as the team’s starting quarterback and will help Notre Dame win several games throughout the year.
Aside from Rees thriving when the spotlight is on him at Notre Dame this season, here is a pair of bold predictions for the Fighting Irish in 2013.
T.J. Jones Is Finalist for Biletnikoff Award
The Fighting Irish don’t have Tyler Eifert anymore. He finished last season with the team lead in receiving yards and was tied for the lead in receptions and touchdowns. Behind Eifert or tied with Eifert in each of those categories was T.J. Jones, who will definitely be the team’s top receiver this season.
But with Eifert gone, how big of an increase in production should we expect from the senior wide receiver? Since these are bold predictions, we’re going to go with a lot—meaning enough to get him in contention for the Biletnikoff Award, which is given to the top receiver in the country each year.
Jones was on the award’s preseason watch list a year ago (h/t CBS Sports), and he had a solid season for the Fighting Irish. He caught 50 passes for 649 yards and four touchdowns. He’s on the preseason watch list again this year but will need to have much more astonishing numbers to win the award.
Marqise Lee took home the award last year after catching 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns. Justin Blackmon won it the two years prior, finishing 2010 with 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns and 2011 with 1,522 yards and 18 touchdowns. It’s going to take a lot for Jones to win, but he has the potential to do it.
Perfect Record Against Ranked Opponents
It’s not going to be easy to replicate the success Notre Dame had last season, as many teams should be in the mix to go to the BCS Championship Game. In order to cement the team’s spot in the title game, the Fighting Irish are going to have to play extremely well against ranked opponents.
Notre Dame went undefeated against ranked opponents a year ago, but not all of the victories were by convincing margins. The Irish looked good against No. 10 Michigan State (W, 20-3) and No. 8 Oklahoma (W, 30-13) but only defeated No. 17 Stanford and No. 18 Michigan by seven points each.
This season, the Irish will be playing a similar schedule to that of 2012. Stanford, Oklahoma, Michigan and USC are all in the USA Today Preseason Top 25, and Michigan State and Arizona State each received votes (h/t ESPN). At the moment, it looks like Notre Dame will have at least six battles on its hands in 2013.
While the slate of games for the upcoming year will likely be an uphill climb for the Irish, the team won’t back down with the spotlight on it. Notre Dame will go undefeated against ranked opponents throughout the regular season, making its case for back-to-back trips to the BCS Championship Game.
All statistics in this article were obtained via ESPN unless otherwise noted. Benjamin Klein is a Featured Columnist and Breaking News Writer for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at @BenjaminJKlein.