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How we got here: Breaking down 4-0

Sep 26, 2012, 2:26 PM EST

Michigan v Notre Dame Getty Images

After a whirlwind September saw the Irish cross the Atlantic and beat two preseason top 15 teams, the Irish are 4-0 for the first time in a decade. With the bye week coming a little bit earlier than usual, Notre Dame players and coaches get to catch their breath this weekend before heading into October ranked in the top ten for the first time since 2006.

Tracking the Irish ascent up the polls has been interesting. With a new starting quarterback, a rebuilt secondary, and the team’s best offensive weapon gone, the Irish started the season just outside the AP top 25. After their dismantling of Navy, Notre Dame jumped to No. 22. They inched up to No. 20 after sneaking by Purdue in week two. They made a huge leap forward after dominating No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing, ending up at No. 11, before creeping into the top ten with their 13-6 win over Michigan.

If September was a challenge, October offers more of the same. The No. 10 Irish will take a few days this week to get a jump start on Miami, with Al Golden’s team already 2-0 in ACC play and 3-1 overall. Playing in Soldier Field, it’s another neutral site game that’ll feature the Irish in their Shamrock Series uniforms. From there, they’ll play one of the biggest games of the weekend when Stanford comes to South Bend. They’ll face a BYU team that’s lost two road games by a total of four points before heading to Norman, Oklahoma to battle the No. 16 Sooners.

If September set the standard for what this football team can achieve, October will define the ceiling. Get through October unscathed and the Irish will be in territory not yet charted. But with a schedule as difficult as this, and four opponents all capable of beating Notre Dame, looking too far ahead is a foolish exercise.

It hasn’t been all positive for the Irish through four games. But we’ll break down each position group in the following posts to take a closer look at how the Irish jumped into the top ten and made this one of the most exciting starts to the season in years.

  1. phillyj - Sep 26, 2012 at 2:44 PM

    To state the obvious, the offense will really need to up the production dramatically if we’re to make it out of October unscathed. But if the defense keeps playing the way it has thus far, anything’s possible. Go Irish!

    • zorichmidriff - Sep 26, 2012 at 3:04 PM

      Aint true. Eventually, even if the D continues to play stingy, they will break down from being on the field the entire game. O can’t continue this three and out crap. We have got to figure out a way to revive the running game and get the nation’s top TE doing more than blocking.

      If we can generate 21 to 30 pts a game, we can beat anyone. But we have to get something going offensively.

    • bernhtp - Sep 26, 2012 at 3:32 PM

      The offense will need to develop/improve if there is hope of running the table, though I am not sure of how dramatic it needs to be. The biggest problem, as usual, is the QB position. I believe that Golson will get better, maybe even much better, as the season progresses. Kelly will continue to fill in for his lapses when needed in the meantime.

      I’ve becoming a bigger fan of Kelly. He makes mistakes and he doesn’t always cop to them, but I don’t see him repeating the same mistake. Take the Tulsa game for instance. Kelly didn’t cop to making a mistake by trying the TD pass instead of kicking the field goal, but with Purdue this year, he put in Rees, made some yards, put the ball in the middle of the field and let time run down, and then kicked the winning field goal. Similarly, his handing of the QB by developing Golson while replacing him with the game in jeopardy is a big improvement over last year.

    • bodonnell1120 - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:43 PM

      LSU had one of the worst offenses in college football last year and they made the BCS championship…

      • zorichmidriff - Sep 26, 2012 at 6:38 PM

        And look what happened.

      • bodonnell1120 - Sep 26, 2012 at 7:53 PM

        yea they made it to the BCS championship and lost…not sure what you are getting at…like you or anyone on this board expected a trip to the BCS championship game this year win or lose

      • bodonnell1120 - Sep 26, 2012 at 7:55 PM

        yea they made it to the BCS championship and lost…not sure what you are getting at…like you or anyone on this board expected at the beginning of the season a trip to the BCS championship game this year was possible, win or lose

      • bodonnell1120 - Sep 26, 2012 at 7:56 PM

        well thats embarassing…rookie poster here

      • zorichmidriff - Sep 26, 2012 at 10:00 PM

        what i’m getting at is they were one dimensional. sure their D carried them to the BCS championship, but their D had an off night, and their lack of O bit them in the ass. it’s not a riddle.

  2. nudeman - Sep 26, 2012 at 2:44 PM

    “If September set the standard for what this football team can achieve, October will define the ceiling”

    BINGO

    Hope the week off doesn’t produce the flat results from years past
    Maybe the Shamrock Series unis will get them stoked.

    • bernhtp - Sep 26, 2012 at 3:07 PM

      I’m hoping that garish uniforms aren’t required to win a game against Miami in their current state. If true, we’re in big trouble.

    • 808raiderinparadise - Sep 26, 2012 at 4:02 PM

      Love the new uni’s …. and yes October is a tough schedule.

      Miami has athletes for mismatches.
      Stanford has great ball control and time of poss.
      BYU has a good defense but they will be on the field the whole game.
      OK is OK, a top tier program, big physical players and norman OK is going to be loud for that game

    • chisports14 - Sep 26, 2012 at 11:27 PM

      click my handle for my take on QB situation

      • ibleedirish - Sep 27, 2012 at 10:48 AM

        go away

      • chisports14 - Sep 28, 2012 at 6:19 PM

        Oh ya, well I was the one who predicted that Rees would be the person winning the games this year. The message board folks were the ones saying “Tommy Turnover” can’t win big games and had played his last snaps at Notre Dame.

  3. smurphdoggy29 - Sep 26, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    Catching their breath ? What ? Who is catching their breath ? There’ll be no catching of breath, they have classes, practice, and rehab !!

    Nudeman is spot on they shouldn’t have a let down, but on my check list the pass catchers have yet to make the breakout I had anticipated. I too hope the offense trends in a forward direction !

    GO Irish beat the wind and rain makers !
    God Bless Manti and his family & friends !
    Please don’t make us watch the hideousness of those Shamrock Series Uniforms !
    Here’s hoping Sparty wins Saturday !

  4. ndfanwabashman - Sep 26, 2012 at 3:38 PM

    Here’s how they made their ascent up the polls: TURNOVERS

    They have done a tremendous job of limiting them on offense and taking the ball away on defense.

    Here’s even more proof of that, the team that is dead last in turnover margin made the most dramatic fall from the polls, Arkansas.

    • nudeman - Sep 26, 2012 at 3:44 PM

      And that is pretty much all you need to know about 2011 vs 2012 ND football
      Their offense was actually better last year, but they kept spitting it up

  5. yllibnosredna - Sep 26, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    Keith,

    Any chance of you completing your “Opponent Preview” write-ups? Last I recall, the final one you’ve done was for the Mich State game, in which you accurately had ND winning on the road in East Lansing, which would’ve and did place the Irish at 3-0. And one of the more interesting nuances you threw on the outlook–if I remember correctly–was that you rated each opponent on the level of difficulty, in comparison to the rest of the squads on this gauntlet of a schedule, that you believed they posed to ND–1st to 12th. I believe that Mich. State was what you believed to be the 3rd? toughest match-up before the season began. Did you have Michigan at fourth at the time? I’m assuming you had USC and Oklahoma 1st and 2nd respectively?

    Now that we are a third of the way through the season, I suppose continuing to rate the difficulty of each game might be a bit more superfluous than during the preseason. That being said, where would you rate the difficulty of the Stanford match-up? I’m assuming your gauge of the challenge they pose has likely increased whereas perhaps Oklahoma and USC’s threat level has waned a bit. More importantly, how would you now rate the level of difficulty (first to third) of those three games now that those three squads have each had one or two unexpected and uncharacteristic performances–for better or worse?

  6. pacific123ocean - Sep 26, 2012 at 4:48 PM

    Looking ahead, I see that ND should be the favorite in every remaining game, except Stanford, because they are ranked higher than each remaining opponent.

    ND vs Alabama in the BCS championship!

    • seadomer - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:00 PM

      Love the enthusiasm but Jeff Ross says … too soon

    • ndfaithful - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:22 PM

      wouldn’t that be awesome :)

  7. sinister23 - Sep 26, 2012 at 4:57 PM

    You ND fans are getting dangerously over inflated about this 4-0…and your retarded if you think for a minute the Irish are a top 10 team…and if BAMA EVER PLAYED ND THE SCORE WOULD BE 38-0…jesus i cant wait till you stupid fans wake up!!!

    • seadomer - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:02 PM

      Hey Sin, I know you hate ND and will be here to let us know whether we win or lose . Thanks.

      What team do you root for?

    • wopretense - Sep 26, 2012 at 6:09 PM

      I love it when knuckleheads post ironies like, “your retarted”…it’s so telling. Keep up the good work. Go Irish!

    • NotreDan - Sep 27, 2012 at 8:46 AM

      sissie23 is that douche that wrote for the Michigan State boards that we roundly discredited and he came back to troll our board.

  8. mmcss690 - Sep 26, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    Sinister is an old ND fan who lost his way. But that is why he is here now . . . He smells victory and hope of a great year! His posts are getting softer and softer . . . It’s ok fella, let it all out, dust off your blue and gold jersey, and wipe the tears from your eyes . . . They’re 4-0 . . . You’re home now little sinny, wipe that snot off your nose and smile!

  9. dbldmr - Sep 26, 2012 at 9:16 PM

    …at least a rookie poster with a sense of humor.

  10. alsatiannd - Sep 27, 2012 at 6:12 AM

    Not to be a buzzkill, but has anyone else noticed that we, they and everyone is simultaneously declaring that ND, by beating Navy and 3 B1G teams is back, and that the B1G is a cluster-f disaster this year? I’m not looking for a debate. Just looking for a way to reboot my expectations to low. As a battered fan the last 15 years, it’s my go-to coping skill.

    • seadomer - Sep 27, 2012 at 9:00 AM

      Well, if Sparty take cares of THE nuts, I’ll feel better.

  11. yaketyyacc - Sep 27, 2012 at 7:45 AM

    there has to be a balanced attack. we cannot remain ,one dimenstional, and keep running and passing to the FROG. Rid-dick, Rid-dick, Rid-dick.

    Evert Golson, stop being Bruce Wayne and become BAT-Man, the devastating quarterback of Notre Dame. a fighter, a leader sand a winner. As Coach Dikta and Kershawn Johnson and the men would say. “Com’on Bat-Man, do it.”

    • seadomer - Sep 27, 2012 at 8:57 AM

      Enjoying a day off? … Don’t drink and type.
      Sorry, it was right there

  12. derekfoster87 - Sep 27, 2012 at 11:10 AM

    First time poster here. I was at the game last week and needless to say it was an amazing experience. I (like everyone else) am ecstatic over the 4-0 start. I am trying to keep my optimism to a minimum. We have been burned by false hope wayyyy too many times in recent memory. However, something about this team just feels different. I feel like the defense is starting to earn a reputation and an attitude that says we will not be F-ed with. We have D lineman that are down right scary- Tuitt may be the best lineman in all of America (Mel Kiper agrees). Day is well on his way to becoming a star. Manti may be the best player at any position in the country. Not to mention the young DB’s who were thrown into an unfamiliar role are have succeded thus far. I like what I have seen. October will provided a MUCH greater measuring stick to see where this team his headed. Till then, let’s not talk about BCS just yet! (Feel free to think about it though)

  13. bigmix86 - Sep 27, 2012 at 5:32 PM

    Let’s all stop debating whether or not Notre Dame is back, If they belong in the top ten, Yadda..Yadda…Yadda!
    As far as I’m concerned they are like every other 4-0 team right now. They are the best D%&# team in America until someone beats them. After that then we will talk about how good they are.

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