If ESPN has anything to do with it, Notre Dame will be in the Top 25 to start the 2012 season in September. On their web site, the network put the Irish as the 23rd best team in the country heading into next year in their annual ‘Way Too Early’ rankings on Tuesday.
Here is what ESPN said regarding the outlook for the 2012 Notre Dame team.
The jury still seems to be out on whether coach Brian Kelly can return the Fighting Irish to national prominence. There’s no question the Irish are a better defensive team under Kelly, but the offense continues to struggle because of turnovers and poor quarterback play. Kelly will again oversee a quarterback battle in the offseason, with Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson battling for the starting job. The Irish will be without star receiver Michael Floyd, but tight end Tyler Eifert decided to come back for one more season. The defense should continue to improve as young linemen such as Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt get stronger. Notre Dame’s schedule in 2012 is daunting, with nine games against teams that played in bowl games, including road contests at Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC.
Personally, I have never been a huge fan of the early rankings. We have about eight months to start of next season and a lot can happen before then as far as players transferring or going to the pro level and coaches taking jobs at different schools or even at the pro level. These rankings will probably change before September rolls around.
I would much rather have the Irish being unranked heading into next season so they can fly under the radar. After all, their Top 15 ranking at the start of the 2011 season didn’t help them one bit.