How long will it take for Kelly's prophecy to become reality? Our latest poll asked "How many games will Notre Dame Football win in 2010?" Here are the results:
Thanks to everyone who voted. You can find our predictions for the 2010 season below. Feel free to post your own predictions in the comments section, and check out our new poll at the bottom of the page.
While a former Leprechaun may be expected to predict a perfect season every year, I am going to have to temper the enthusiasm of my co-authors a bit with what I deem to be a realistic and cautiously optimistic prediction for the 2010 Fighting Irish. I have no doubt that Crist will emerge as a tremendous leader, but he has a lot to prove as he enters the season with little experience. The arsenal of highly talented weapons at his disposal should help, and I am expecting big things from the likes of Floyd, Rudolph, Allen, and Riddick. I'm looking for the combination of redshirt freshman Cierre Wood and true freshman Tai-ler Jones to provide an extra spark to the offense as well. Defensively, I am banking on a vastly improved defensive line with Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore wreaking havoc on opposing backfields. Our secondary is still suspect due to little depth at safety, but I can feel a breakout year coming from Dan McCarthy as he steps in for his older brother.
Most importantly, the Fighting Irish will have a new leader in Coach Kelly who will make them believe and instill them with a new sense of drive. If the 2010 team can take Kelly's "Irish Creed" to heart, they will do well.
All that being said, first 6 games on our schedule present us with a gauntlet that even the most elite team would have difficulty coming out of unscathed. I am predicting a 3-3 start for the Fighting Irish, who will then go on a tear and finish the regular season at 8-4 before extending the bowl winning streak to 2.
ND’s front-loaded schedule makes 2010 a challenge, but this team’s talent—as measured by not just recruiting evaluations but preseason All-American and related watch lists—exceeds that of any group this staff has previously coached. The personnel upgrade far outweighs the tougher schedule, especially in a year when ND’s second-best opponent on paper, Pitt, is a team that Kelly defeated twice in three years at UC. Three of BK’s six Cincinnati losses came against ranked opponents. Kelly won ten in his first season with UC, and he’ll do it again at Notre Dame.
As Kelly said on 97.1 FM in Columbus this morning, “Without a doubt the strength of our football team will be the depth.” Kelly has more talent on this roster than he probably has had on all of his previous teams combined, and a lot of bodies to compete for starting spots. Kelly and Longo create an environment in which every player knows he has a shot to break through the depth charts. There are no guaranteed starters, no players who are more important than the team as a whole, and that will lead to the hungriest, hardest-working starting 11 on both sides of the ball.
Despite having one of the toughest, front-loaded schedules in college football, this team is due to pull it off. These players are extremely familiar with their competition, having beaten or barely lost to eight of the teams on the schedule just last season. While these teams might also have improved over the off season, so have we, and in ways they have not (the addition of the Brian Kelly’s intangibles/conditioning/mental toughness... not just skill development).
Our players have already bought into Kelly’s ‘team first’ program and are thirsty for a championship. They have a quarterback whose strength is his leadership skills, and a defense that has silently been maturing and getting ready for their outbreak season. This talented group of Irishmen has underperformed for too long, and the fans, players, and coaches will not tolerate another season of not playing to their full potential.
A touchdown loss in the national championship game will cap Brian Kelly’s inaugural season and show the underclassmen that they are ready to take it home next season.
Kelly is a natural born-competitor and he will stop at nothing to prove himself. He knows that “you've got to win right away in college football. There are no three- or five-year plans anymore." Willingham and Weis went 10-3 and 9-3 in their first Irish seasons, respectively. You can be certain that Kelly will outperform his predecessors.
Here’s to hoping that 13% of you were right, and the Fighting Irish prove all three of us wrong by bringing home the hardware in 2010.