They started the season ranked on the fringe of the Top 10 (No. 12) coming off a 10-win season, with visions of climbing much higher.
Why not, it was Notre Dame and the discussion of any football season under the Golden Dome starts--and often ends--with the goal being to win the national championship.
There was reason for optimism, of course. Coach Brian Kelly had 16 starters returning, but he also had to do some reconstruction on his offensive line. There was also a question at quarterback. Brandon Wimbush was the starter going into camp, but he had serious competition from Ian Book.
And then there was the schedule. The Irish generally take on all comers in all parts of the country. They are, after all, Notre Dame.
In August, this schedule looked particularly daunting, starting with a renewal of the series against Michigan on Sept. 1. There was a five-game stroll through the ACC (the Irish's concession to getting a guaranteed bowl slot if they stumbled a few times during the season). A season which included perennial ACC powers Virginia Tech (on the road) and Florida State. There were the usual encounters with Stanford and USC from the Pac-12 and road trips which took them from San Diego to Yankee Stadium.
But ND was ready and proved it by punching Michigan in the nose early in South Bend and then holding on for a 24-17 win. How good was that win? Well, Michigan didn't lose a game until their annual meltdown against Ohio State last Saturday.
The Irish also caught a break when Virginia Tech, Stanford, FSU and USC all stumbled and bumbled and stumbled some more. None of them were like some of their Top 25 teams of recent years past.
Book emerged as the starter and the Irish went on a roll.
ND won and won and won again. And suddenly the regular season had ended last Saturday in the Los Angeles Coliseum with a 24-17 ND victory, leaving the Irish with a 12-0 record, making them the first team to have a mortal lock on a Final Four semifinal slot, probably in the Orange Bowl against Clemson.
There will be some irony in that setting if it happens, since the last time ND two times the Irish took championship caliber teams to Hard Rock Stadium in South Florida they came up with near goose eggs. They lost a national championship match up to Alabama in that Stadium by a score of 42-14 in 2013 and in 2017, Miami crushed the Irish's title hopes with a 41-8 regular season thrashing.
Now another Irish tale is unfolding and ND is the first one at the dinner table, which is why the Irish are the TMG Newsmaker of the Week.