Sure, it’s just July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our eighth annual countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last season’s four College Football Playoff semifinalists were rated Nos. 3, 6, 13 and 24 on our 2015 list.
Today’s team: No. 10 Notre Dame (Related coverage: When it comes to juggling QBs, Notre Dame must break down the math)
The Fighting Irish will contend if … their youth can find some cohesion early. The schedule is certainly beneficial for a young team finding its way. Games against Texas, Nevada and Duke give Notre Dame a chance to build some early momentum. It’s hard to imagine the Irish having more injury problems this year like 2015. Brian Kelly got that team to 10 wins. This group could post similar results.
INSIDE THE FIGHTING IRISH
Coach: Brian Kelly (seventh year, 55-23; 108-45 overall at Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Notre Dame)
2015: 10-3, lost to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, 44-28
Returning starters: 3 offense, 5 defense
The key game: Oct. 15, Stanford
Hello: QB DeShone Kizer, TE Alize Jones, G Quenton Nelson, DE Isaac Rochell, LB James Onwualu, CB Cole Luke
Goodbye: RB C.J. Prosise (Seattle Seahawks), WR Will Fuller (Houston Texans), WR Chris Brown (Dallas Cowboys), LB Jaylon Smith (Cowboys), LB Joe Schmidt, S Elijah Shumate (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Spring cleaning: Kelly has won 55 games in his first six seasons in South Bend. Only Lou Holtz (56) won more. … The biggest holes appear to be on defense, as the Irish lost Butkus Award winner Jaylon Smith, captain Joe Schmidt and safeties Elijah Shumate and Matthias Farley. They were part of a defense that yielded 24.1 points per game. But don’t be fooled by a perceived lack of experience. The Irish have multiple players who saw action the last few years, and several others returning from an injury-plagued 2015. … The real news is that Notre Dame is restarting its rivalry with Michigan in 2018.
Passing: DeShone Kizer, 211-335-2,884 yards, 21/10 (1st)
Rushing: Josh Adams (RB), 117-835-6 (2nd); DeShone Kizer (QB), 134-520-10 (3rd)
Receiving: Torii Hunter Jr., 28-363-2 (4th)
Tackles: S Max Redfield, 64 (4th); DL Isaac Rochell, 63 (5th)
Sacks: LB James Onwualu, 3 (3rd)
- DeShone Kizer’s breakout game came in muddy conditions against Clemson last season. He competed 19 of 34 passes for 321 yards and threw two touchdowns. Kizer finished the year completing 63 percent of his throws. Malik Zaire is back from a broken ankle suffered in week two, but it would appear Kizer has the inside track.
- Special teams are always critical early, and Kelly has all of his specialists returning. K Justin Yoon was 15 for 17 on field goals and hit all but two extra points. Return man C.J. Sanders averaged 7.3 yards on 25 punt returns.
- The Irish open the season at Royal-Memorial Stadium, a place expected to host its first 100,000-plus crowd for the first time in the Charlie Strong era. Since Holtz left Notre Dame, the Irish are 5-14 in their first true road game of the year. But what should trouble Texas fans is how Notre Dame’s offense has increased its scoring output three straight years despite various issues. The Longhorns will start a young defensive line, although the secondary has experience.
Notre Dame's 2016 schedule
|Date||Opponent||Last yr's result (if played)|
|Sept. 4||at Texas||W, 38-3|
|Sept. 17||Michigan State|
|Oct. 8||at North Carolina State|
|Oct. 15||Stanford||L, 38-36|
|Nov. 5||Navy||W, 41-24|
|Nov. 19||Virginia Tech|
|Nov. 26||at USC||W, 41-31|
Notre Dame: The last 5 years
|2015||10-3 / —||11th / 11th||Fiesta Bowl, L|
|2014||8-5 / —||— / 17th||Music City Bowl, W|
|2013||9-4 / —||14th / 20th||Pinstripe Bowl, W|
|2012||12-1 / —||— / 4th||BCS title game, L|
|2011||8-5 / —||16th / —||Champs Sports Bowl, L|
|Total||47-18||5 bowl games (2-3)|
2015 NATIONAL RANKS
Scoring: 34th (34.2 ppg)
Scoring defense: 39th (24.1 ppg)
Passing yards: 35th (258.5 ypg)
Rushing yards: 27th (207.9 ypg)
TOP 25 SO FAR …
No. 10: Notre Dame
No. 9: Coming Friday. Want a hint? This school’s football stadium, named for a former athletic director and coach, features a checkerboard design in its end zones.
4 schools: Pac-12 (14-USC, 17-Washington, 21-Oregon, 25-Washington State)
3 schools: Big 12 (13-TCU, 19-Baylor, 22-Oklahoma State)
2 schools: ACC (20-North Carolina, 23-Louisville); Big Ten (15-Michigan State, 18-Iowa); SEC (12-Ole Miss, 16-Georgia)
1 school: AAC (11-Houston); Mountain West (24-Boise State); Independents (10-Notre Dame)