Jan 7, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans cheer prior to the start of the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2013 BCS Championship game at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame Appears 9th in Early Top 25


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Every year, Mark Schlabach produces an early Top 25 ranking for the upcoming football season. Of course, anything can happen between February and kickoff. An injury could devastate a team’s hopes and aspirations. But, Notre Dame enters his rankings at 9th in the country. Schlabach wrote of the Fighting Irish on ESPN.com:

After unexpectedly leading the Fighting Irish to a 12-0 record during the regular season in 2012 and a spot in the Discover BCS National Championship, coach Brian Kelly landed the school’s first top-five recruiting class since 2006. Even without All-American linebacker Manti Te’o, the Irish figure to again be stingy on defense in 2013, especially with star nose guard Louis Nix III and defensive end Stephon Tuitt coming back. Kelly added a lot of speed and athleticism in this recruiting class for his defense, including linebackers Jaylon Smith and Doug Randolph, tackle EddieVanderdoes and safety Max Redfield. There’s also more help for the offense, including running back Greg Bryant. The Irish bring back seven starters on offense, and quarterback Everett Golson figures to be a better passer in his second season as a starter. Notre Dame’s schedule in 2013 again looks daunting, with road games at Michigan and Stanford and home contests against Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC, plus a matchup against Arizona State at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Only three of Notre Dame’s 2013 opponents are in his rankings, Michigan, Oklahoma and Stanford. Stanford is the biggest surprise. They appear in Schlabach’s rankings at 2nd in the nation. The Cardinal will return 17 starters on their 2013 roster but lose Running Back Stepfan Taylor, Linebackers Shane Skov and Chase Thomas. The trip to Palo Alto will undoubtedly be the toughest for Notre Dame in the 2013 season. Oklahoma returns 11 starters from their 2012 team. They lose their leader Landry Jones and the “Belldozer” will have to prove that he is more than just a red zone Quarterback. Michigan has 12 starters back on their roster from last year. They lose the main staple of their Offense that was Denard Robinson. But, Devin Gardner looks to be a more stable force at the Quarterback position.

Schlabach’s Top 25 suggests one thing. Notre Dame only has one opponent that is better than them. In addition, Notre Dame never does well when they are predicted to do well. How will they deal with that pressure? In 2011, they were considered to be a BCS Bowl contender and only ended up in the Champs Sports Bowl. As everyone knows, these polls are subjective. Notre Dame needs to do it on the field.

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