With 17 returning starters, two All-Americans and an infusion of young, talented recruits, there were many who thought that this year, Notre Dame had a chance to put together a double-digit win campaign and make it back to their first BCS bowl game since the 2006 season.
Those hopes were quickly dashed when the Irish started off the season with consecutive losses to South Florida and Michigan.
The panic button was immediately pressed and some of those same preseason supporters started turning on the team, calling the Irish frauds.
The storm has since settled now that coach Brian Kelly, who took the brunt of the criticism, has gotten his team back on track, leading them to three straight victories over Michigan State, Pittsburgh and Purdue.
The Irish now stand with a respectable, yet less than satisfying, 3-2 record, as they prepare to enter the stretch run of the season.
Their remaining seven game slate offers up its fair share of challenges, but as a whole, it’s not that overwhelming by any means.
Notre Dame faces a grand total of zero ranked teams between now and the time the Irish will have to head to Stanford for the season-ending game against the No. 7 ranked Cardinal.
Air Force, USC, Navy, Wake Forest, Maryland and Boston College all still stand in Notre Dame’s way before the Stanford game, and while most of those teams can be considered average and slightly above mediocre, are any of them really all that scary?
Air Force and Navy have two dangerous rushing attacks but neither has the same type of overall talent as the Irish.
USC is stuck in a bit of a down phase and the Trojans don’t have their normal abundance of dangerous offensive playmakers this season.
Wake Forest, Boston College and Maryland are all middle-of-the-road ACC teams and none of them are overly impressive.
It’s quite conceivable that Notre Dame could run the table and go 6-0 before the Irish meet up with Stanford in the big showdown on Nov. 26.
If that happens, Notre Dame will enter the game with a 9-2 record and a shot of still posting a double-digit win campaign.
That’s not to say that it’s likely that the Irish can pull that off, but nonetheless, it’s certainly possible.
It makes you wonder after all that went down in the beginning of the season, if this Notre Dame team will actually live up to the hype after all.
Sure, it’s still very doubtful that even with a 10-2 record the Irish could make it to a BCS bowl game, especially since there are still so many teams out there that don’t even have a blemish on their record yet, however, it’s not completely out of the question.
If Brian Kelly can figure out a way to put all that talent we saw on paper in the preseason to good use, the coach could end up having the last laugh when all is said and done.
Yes, the Irish were a big disappointment in September, but that’s in the past.
This team has recovered and regrouped and they look ready to make a strong late-season surge.
Whether or not that surge ends with an appearance in a BCS bowl game still remains to be seen.
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