Notre Dame Football: Best and Worst Case Scenarios for Rest of Irish's Season

Randy ChambersAnalyst ISeptember 23, 2013

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 07: Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish looks on from the sideline in the first quarter during the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium on September 7, 2013 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

With a month of college football in the books, Notre Dame is sitting with an uneasy 3-1 record.

Games against Purdue and Michigan State could have gone either way. Still, it's a 75 percent winning percentage to begin the season and most Irish fans can't complain.

But everybody likes to paint Notre Dame with a broad bush. There's rarely ever in between with this program. Either the Irish are on top of the world and on your television set everywhere you turn or they are grossly overrated and still plastered on your TV.

What does the rest of the season hold for Notre Dame?

It's likely somewhere in the middle.


Best Case Scenario

Notre Dame reaching a second consecutive BCS bowl? Although the best case scenario usually only happens in movies, folks in South Bend should not rule it out. Look at the first four games and tell me they aren't eerily familiar the way last season played out.

The defense steps up big when it counts, the offense does just enough to win and the games somehow always manage to come down to the fourth quarter.

The constant struggling against bad teams should continue to concern the Irish, but should quickly go away once they glance over at the record. Maybe this is the new era of Notre Dame football and folks just need to learn to accept it.

Besides the similarities, this year's team does something that last years couldn't. The offense is actually having success passing the ball. Tommy Rees could improve his decision making, but he's doing a nice job of leading the offense to an average of 280 yards through the air.

Last season Notre Dame averaged just 222 passing yards.

The passing game will eventually open up the running lanes and lead to a more balanced offense. Running backs Cam McDaniel, George Atkinson III and Amir Carlisle are way too talented not to improve a ground game that is ranked 100th in the country.

As usual, the most important factor in Notre Dame making a BCS run is the schedule. But even that's looking a little softer than it did before the season.

Arizona State isn't as good as many predicted and would be an ugly 1-2 if it wasn't for the referees falling asleep in the Wisconsin game. USC is absolutely pathetic and BYU's offense can't move the ball 10 inches without tripping over its shoelaces.

The only major concerns in Notre Dame's schedule are Oklahoma and Stanford. As long as the Irish split those two games, a 10-2 Notre Dame club shouldn't have a difficult time qualifying for a BCS bid.

Sounds a lot easier than it actually is, but in a perfect world the Irish are back in a prestigious bowl and the BCS committee is grinning from ear to ear.


Worst Case Scenario

The worst possible case is Notre Dame taking a step backwards and qualify for a lousy game such as the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Hmm, a big market bowl with millions watching or a trip to Yankee Stadium in December against a team from the American Athletic Conference? 

There's no question which trip sounds more exciting.

But like Jerry Palm of CBS Sports is predicting, the possibility of playing on a baseball field is a reality for Notre Dame.

Although the wins are nice, each and every game is getting dangerously closer. When you play with fire enough, you are eventually going to get burned.

A revamped Purdue squad only lost by a touchdown, while Michigan State lost by four points and had many chances to win. These are teams that shouldn't have been able to take Notre Dame down to the wire, but for whatever reason were able to for the second straight season.

Jan 7, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide fans hold up signs during the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the 2013 BCS Championship game at Sun Life Stadium. Alabama won 42-14.  Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The running game should also remain a concern. Sure, the backfield is loaded with talent, but that and five dollars would get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. The ground game has failed to top 100 yards in three consecutive games.

That's not good for an offense that already has a hard time scoring points. If the production doesn't pick up, Rees will be forced to take on a heavier workload, which is the type of stuff that gives Irish fans nightmares.

Rees has a habit of turning the ball over in bunches, and with so many close games it only takes one mistake for a win to become a loss.

The Irish are still searching for game changers on offense, and the wins can get quite ugly.

With there being a slim margin for error, Notre Dame could lose three or four games and end up playing in a bowl before New Year's Day.


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