10 teams that could win it all in ’13: Notre Dame

AP Photo/Joe Raymond
AP Photo/Joe Raymond

Prior to the start of college football season, I’ve presented you with 10 college football teams that have a realistic chance to win the national title this year. Today, the series ends with Notre Dame.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2013 schedule)
2012 record: 12-1
BCS Championship game appearance (lost to Alabama 42-14)

Why they could win it all: Few teams on this list other than Alabama have recent experience in a national title game. Notre Dame does have championship game experience, even if they were blasted by the Crimson Tide in the big game last season. The jitters should be gone and the Irish already know the road to Pasadena.

Notre Dame has gotten better every year under head coach Brian Kelly. He’s building a program that is back in the championship discussion, and last season, they proved Notre Dame Football is “back.” They’ll have to rely on backup quarterback Tommy Rees this season with the loss of Everett Golson, who was kicked off the team for this year. Rees, according to The Big Lead, is a “game-manager,” and that’s something the Irish will need on offense with multiple crucial personnel losses in the offseason.

Now, let’s look at the strength of this Notre Dame squad and perhaps the reason why they could be back in the title game this season — the defense. Kelly will have one of the best defenses in the nation this year, and many expect them to be better than the 2012 unit, which ranked No. 2 in the nation and allowed just 12.8 points per game. Linemen Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt have the potential to be the best players at their respective positions, and quarterbacks will be uncomfortable with those two beasts bearing down on them all season.

(More in this series: Alabama | Ohio State | Oregon | Clemson | Louisville | Georgia | Stanford | South Carolina | Texas)

Why they might not win it all: Let’s face it — without Golson, Notre Dame would have been nowhere close to the national title game a year ago. Now, the pressure’s on Rees to fill that gap, and Golson was a much more dynamic quarterback than Rees could ever be. Golson’s departure immediately makes the Irish offense more questionable.

And let’s talk about this darn schedule. Notre Dame has road games at Michigan and Stanford, and they have home games against Oklahoma, USC and Michigan State. Regardless of who else is on the schedule, that’s a brutal slate. Can you really picture anybody other than maybe Alabama running the table against those five schools? There’s no doubt the Irish will be deserving of a spot in the BCS Championship game if they can go undefeated again, but I can understand why some people believe an unblemished record is a long shot this year.

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