Notre Dame entered the 2011 season with high expectations from fans and analysts alike. In almost every major publication the Irish enjoyed a preseason Top 25 ranking. For instance ESPN ranked them 16th, while the coaches poll had the Irish ranked 18th. Finally, Phil Steele had the Irish ranked sixth, their highest preseason ranking.
This led to great optimism and cries of "We're back" among many fans and alumni. With a whopping 19 starters returning, a favorable schedule, solid defense and momentum from a strong finish, many had the Irish pegged for around 10 wins and a possible BCS bid. Standing at 8-4 and staring at a likely bid to the Champs Sports Bowl, I think it is reasonable to say the Irish underachieved.
There are a number of reasons the Irish came up short, and these are some thoughts as we look ahead to a bowl and the 2012 season.