New York Times pegs Notre Dame at #32

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Some rag called the New York Times has been counting down all 120 D-I football teams heading into the season’s opener. Yesterday, they profiled their 32nd best team, the University of Notre Dame.

Their bullet-point rationale:

Likes

1. Even without Tate, deep receiving corps.
2. Dayne Crist.
3. 10 returning starters on defense.
4. The running backs.
5. Brian Kelly.

Dislikes

1. Philosophy changes on both sides of the ball.
2. Lack of front-seven depth
3. Breaking in new safeties.
4. The offensive line.
5. A tough schedule.

I’m a huge fan of The Quad blog and Pre-Snap Read is mandatory reading for a college football fan, so I wasn’t surprised when I found myself agreeing with most of what they wrote. That said, I’d argue that two of the Quad’s dislikes are actually strengths (Philosophy change, Offensive line), and while the schedule is surprisingly difficult (Phil Steele ranks it the 17th hardest in the country), it isn’t the meat-grinder of past years (or future).

As most of us were, the boys at the Times were left a little underwhelmed from their 2009 prediction. From last year:

Thinking logically, I have to give the Irish a loss to U.S.C.;
another loss will come from the group of Nevada, Michigan State,
Pittsburgh and Stanford; I also can’t escape the feeling the team will
lose one game it shouldn’t. If you can say with a straight face that the
Irish are not talented enough to make at least a one-win improvement
over last season’s finish, either A) you know something I don’t; or B)
your hatred for all things Fighting Irish has blinded you against all
sense of reason. I’m thinking Notre Dame goes 9-3, a finish that could
earn the Irish a B.C.S. bowl appearance, but with this schedule more
likely a spot between Nos. 16-23 in the final regular season poll.

If I’m reading the complete preview at Pre-Snap Read, here is the thing that really like:

I had the opportunity to eat breakfast with Brian Kelly and a small
handful of colleagues in early March, when Kelly and a few university
administrators were in Manhattan to watch the Fighting Irish play in the
Big East tournament. I took three key things from this conversation.
One, Kelly is as passionate about college football — not just football,
college football, mind you — as anyone I’ve come across. Two, his
attention to detail — how he planned to run spring practice, his
day-to-day coaching philosophies, what he expected from his team — is
unparalleled. Three, and perhaps most telling, Kelly is not going to
allow his team to use this coaching change as rationale for using that
dreaded word — rebuilding. Kelly expects to win, to win now, and win
big. As the first-year coach said later in the spring:

All in all, a pretty comprehensive look at the upcoming season, especially their breakdown of the experience on defense. 9-3 if things go well, 5-7 if it’s a complete nightmare. I’m guessing most ND fans are hoping things go more than well..