No. 7 Notre Dame

Notre Dame is back. Notre Dame is BACK. Pick one. Well, it depends on what happens next week in Austin, Texas when the Irish open the 2016 season at Texas.

A repeat of last season's 38-3 trouncing of the Longhorns will re-start the anti-Charlie Strong chatter in Austin and re-start the bandwagon that is always ready to go when Notre Dame wins a highlight game.

Win that game, beat Nevada the next week and then win the third game against Michigan State and you can pencil the Irish into the Final Four right? [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Well, not exactly. Here's the problem. The Irish have only 3 starters returning on offense and two of them, for the Texas game at least, are starting at QB. Irish coach Brian Kelly is putting off a decision about who won the training camp QB battle between Malik Zaire, last year's starter for two games until he was done with a broken ankle, or DeShone Kizer, who took over and led the Irish to a 10-win season. Both will play against Texas.

There is still enough talent on offense to scare anyone the Irish face this season. There are enough holes on defense to scare the Irish coaching staff and Kelly, who know that the route to winning a national championship should not be followed with a "we can outscore these guys'' mentality.

Kelly is now in his 7th season in South Bend, which is like dog years for other schools. Life in the ND spotlight wears you down, especially when you deal with the weekend before the regular season opener explaining why 6 of your players were arrested for various crimes, misdemeanors and actions.

ND and Kelly dealt with it and moved on, and now a season which includes not only Texas, Michigan State, but Miami, Stanford and USC, is ready to begin.

Ten wins might be ambitious, which also means that anything above No. 7 in the polls also might be a stretch.

The countdown thus far: No. 16 Pepper Hamilton (Baylor), No. 15 Georgia, No. 14 Michigan State , No. 13 Miami, No. 12 Houston, No. 11 Ohio State, No. 10 Stanford, No. 9, No. 8 Tennessee [/membership]

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