If there was any lingering doubt about whether or not Notre Dame is officially back, doubt no longer.
This Sports Illustrated cover proves that the resurgence has begun.
The Chicago Tribune reports that for the first time in six years, a Fighting Irish player is on the cover of the magazine, which must mean that finally—after so many years of unexpected futility—this team is truly one of the best in the nation again.
The Trib writes:
Linebacker Manti Te'o graces the cover of a regional edition of the magazine that will circulate in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, eastern Missouri and most of Ohio, plus parts of Canada.
It's not as though the Irish's record early this season has left any doubt that the team is for real. The Irish have faced one of the nation's toughest schedules in the first four weeks of the season, taking down Navy, Purdue, then-No. 10 Michigan State and then-No. 18 Michigan, all in succession.
There have been no easy games on Notre Dame's schedule yet. Each team the Irish has faced has been a team capable of pulling off a big win.
But finally, against all odds—particularly given the offseason turmoil surrounding the Irish's quarterback situation—this team is starting to look like the team that has historically been one of the strongest in the NCAA.
The last time the Irish were featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, according to the Tribune, it was August 2006. Back then, Notre Dame was coming off an impressive 9-3 campaign in Charlie Weis' first season as head coach.
The Irish followed it up with a 10-3 season in 2006, but in what would become a trend for Notre Dame, it kept losing the big, decisive games that were the difference between a decent bowl game and a national championship berth. Losses to the likes of USC and Michigan hurt the Irish in Weis' first two years at the helm—and then it all went downhill.
From 2007-2011, the Irish would struggle to keep themselves in the polls—and sometimes, they'd even struggle to keep themselves above .500.
This year, though, it's different. This year is the first time since 2006 that this team has looked worthy of its illustrious history. It has triumphed when faced with the likes of Michigan and Michigan State. This looks like a team that might even be able to beat USC for once.
And as such, the Irish have since been rewarded with an SI cover. Hopefully, this one doesn't jinx the Irish and spark several years of unbearable futility, like the last one.