When the college football landscape thinks of Notre Dame, the resonating image of Eddie Lacy juking and shifting through the Irish defense during the 2012 BCS title game surely still comes to mind. As far as the 2014 team is concerned, there should be no problems with that. With the Irish coming off a 9-4 record, fans and media across the country might be in for a surprise with Brian Kelly setting up Notre Dame for another title run.
What outsiders may be missing is that this team has built upon the growing pains and successes from the past two seasons. Aside from losing marquee players, coach Kelly has established depth into a reloading factory without the needing to rebuild.
The running backs, linebackers and defensive backfield are more athletic and have been in the system gearing-up with championship expectations. It is up to coach Kelly to manage the depth chart and for new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder to ingrain his 4-3 scheme; but the player-talent and improved coaching staff still hover under the radar as fans and media-heads amp up over the next five to six weeks.
Without writing off Rice, the Michigan game in week two, will undoubtedly be an earlier barometer of what should be coming of the 2014 season. Notre Dame has slopped across the field against the Wolverines each of the past three match-ups – even though the Irish could have snatched a victory in each of the contests.
A decisive victory over Michigan might just put the rest of the nation on notice that this team is for real. Then again, from Irish fans and everyone else, it is only Michigan and the schedule will only get tougher as the season grows.
How many victories do you think this team is capable of?
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