Tomahawk Nation is setting up preview pages for each of Florida State's football opponents. This is the page for Notre Dame. The Irish travel to Tallahassee on October 18.
Update: Notre Dame has suspended four players indefinitely. Three are really key players.
Here's the rundown of that via One Foot Down.
Paul Myerberg, of USA Today, on Notre Dame post-suspensions. As always, please do click on over and read the piece in its entirety.
In a nutshell: This won't be easy, but it's survivable. As players leave - for an indeterminate amount of time, remember - one key cog returns: Golson is going to change the entire makeup of the Irish's offense, leaving last year's meat-and-potatoes style in the dust in favor of a more frenetic, electric and ultimately productive attack. Even if Notre Dame moves forward without Daniels, it's easy to see this offense playing at a far higher level, keeping the Irish in line for a nine-win season even as the defense undergoes the transition into VanGorder's scheme. For now, it's the offense that must do the heavy lifting; the defense is going to need time.
I like what the offense can achieve in the running game and through the air. The backfield will be substantially more productive in a zone-read scheme, due in part to the three solid backs and Golson's ability to keep defenses honest. The Irish need to find a new go-to target, but there seems to be better overall talent - if unproven - than at any point during Kelly's tenure. My biggest concern, in fact, is the left side of the line; Stanley needs to anchor the blind side. On the plus side, Notre Dame has very nice depth across the board up front. If push comes to shove, this offense might be able to score enough points to hang around with the majority of teams on this schedule - perhaps all but Stanford and Florida State, which will put the clamps on this attack.
I don't completely buy the doom and gloom, basically. It stinks: Notre Dame is again playing from behind, personnel-wise, and the refrain is getting old. But there's enough talent on offense and enough speed along the front seven on defense to make this work, I'd say, even if there'll be speed bumps along the way. It's all about seven factors in particular: protecting Golson, finding a lead receiver, anchoring the left side, finding a pass rush, getting steady play in the middle, finding production at cornerback and locating consistency on special teams. This team will lose to Stanford and Florida State, struggle against USC and Arizona State, lose one game it shouldn't and end the year with eight or nine wins. Adding Russell and Daniels would have - and still could - given Notre Dame an extra win.
Original: I believe this is a top-20 level team, but its wicked schedule might not contain enough automatic wins to see the Irish finish in that range. Keep in mind that only a handful of teams have brought in a higher percentage of four- and five-star recruits over the last four years.
Here's Bill Connelly on Notre Dame's schedule. Please do read all of Connelly's excerpts at the link here.
But while Notre Dame's schedule isn't always as difficult as some think it is, this year's slate is meaty. Three projected top-10 opponents (two on the road), four more opponents projected between 11th and 35th, and perhaps most importantly, only one opponent projected worse than 67th. Consistency will be huge for the Irish in 2014, because a down week probably means a loss.
Notre Dame gets its quarterback back this year off suspension, and it should have one of, if not the best offensive line FSU faces all year.
Despite quite a bit of shuffling, despite youth, despite Tommy Rees' tendency to look downfield a lot, and despite a lack of explosiveness at the running back position, Notre Dame's offensive line thrived in 2013. The Irish were one of seven offenses to rank in the top 25 for both Adj. Line Yards and Adj. Sack Rate -- the others: Texas A&M, Northern Illinois, Miami, Florida State, Arkansas, and Duke -- and while those ratings reflect on more than just the linemen themselves, that's rather impressive.
The Irish do have to replace two longtime starters on the left side; Zack Martin was a four-year starter and Notre Dame's lone first-round pick in last week's draft, and Chris Watt was a three-year starter.
But one has to be enamored with the potential. Sophomores Ronnie Stanley and Steve Elmer are keepers, the experience level is still solid (six players with starting experience, 54 career starts), and there are plenty of high-ceiling newcomers who could end up on the two-deep: Hunter Bivin, John Monteus, Mike McGlinchey (a projected starter at the end of spring), Quenton Nelson, Alex Bars, etc. Martin and Watt were good, but it still seems the line will be a major strength.
ESPN gives Notre Dame a one (1) percent chance to make the playoff. This is the bottom line from a nice preview by ESPN.
Notre Dame had more players drafted this offseason than in any season since 1994, and even the absences of players who won't be playing on Sundays this season will be felt. The Fighting Irish lose one of the top passers in team history (Tommy Rees), two prolific touchdown-scorers in Troy Niklas and TJ Jones, the team's second-leading rusher last year (George Atkinson III), two of the top 10 sack leaders in team history (Stephon Tuitt and Prince Shembo) and the team's career leader in starts (Zack Martin). According to Notre Dame's athletic department, the Irish lose 100 percent of their passing yards, 72.8 percent of their receiving yards, 52 percent of their scoring, 73.4 percent of their total yards, 60.4 percent of their all-purpose yards and 76.2 percent of their sacks. They have stockpiled recruiting talent over the years, but this mountain of personnel losses could be too high for a championship team to climb.