Notre Dame’s last trip to the BCS was in the 2006-2007 season, when the Irish were stomped by LSU, 41-14. It is unofficially known as the game that sparked the career of JaMarcus Russell (332 yards passing, two TDs). Notre Dame hasn’t been remotely close to the BCS since that disaster. But it looks like they’ll have a very good shot at it in the 2011 season.
1) Wide receiver Michael Floyd returns. He was one of the 10 best receivers in the country last year, and he’ll probably be in the Top 5 in 2011. He’ll pair with Theo Riddick (2nd leading receiver) and speedy sophomore-to-be TJ Jones in the spread. The Irish lost TE Kyle Rudolph to the draft, but the kid who replaced him this year, Tyler Eifert, looked like an NFL prospect by season’s end. The Irish passing attack should be very good …
2) … That is, assuming they settle on a QB in the spring. Brian Kelly’s options are many, and a controversy looms: Dayne Crist, the starter who struggled at times with Kelly’s offense, but turned in a decent season before suffering an injury; Touchdown Tommy Rees, who was solid as a freshman backing up Crist (and won the last four games of the season as a starter); Andrew Hendrix, a highly-touted Weis recruit who redshirted last year and who we hear is the best QB on the staff; and Everett Golson, who will be a freshman and probably has no shot at the job, but Irish fans think he has a bit of Charlie Ward in him.
3) The defense, dreadful in 2009, but improved in 2010 – gave up just one TD against Utah, Army and USC, and dominated Miami in the bowl game until giving up some garbage TDs late – will return eight players (according to the Gazette). Notre Dame will have to replace two offensive lineman and hopefully they can find a bruising RB to pair with shifty Cierre Wood. Is it safe to assume Kelly’s players will grasp the offense better in year two?
4) The schedule. Not easy, but not difficult. They won’t face an truly elite teams until the season-ending game at Stanford. South Florida’s actually a difficult opener (QB BJ Daniels is very good). Tough to gauge the Michigan-Michigan State games. The Irish lost to Denard Robinson in the final minute and to the Spartans on a fake field goal in OT. Michigan’s working in a new coach; the Spartans should be very good again. Pittsburgh’s got a new coach. After a trip to Purdue Oct. 1, the Irish don’t play a road game against a good team until the season-ender at Stanford. If you assume the Irish lose to one of the Michigans, and then not again until Stanford, 10-2 should be enough to get to the BCS. I mean … Notre Dame can’t continue this ineptitude against Navy, can it?
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