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The Olympic Games have placed in me a spirit of positivity and peace. The athletes are full of optimism – sometimes for no reason, as in the case of the Nigerian men's basketball team – as they embark on their quests for glory. So far be it for me to write a cynical (though possibly very realistic) column about how the 2012 Notre Dame football team is going to fall short of salvation for the Irish Nation.
The Fighting Irish open training camp on Saturday at 10 a.m. in preparation of their season opener in Dublin, Ireland on Sept. 1 against Navy (9 a.m., CBS).
There are a litany of reasons why this team could struggle to match the eight victories that Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly has won in each of his two seasons, and that list could very well prove to be accurate.
Three years into Kelly's tenure, he still has no idea who his quarterback is and the Fighting Irish face one of their more difficult schedules in years. But what fun is writing the same column that you could read just about anywhere on the Web? Especially after watching American swimmer Ryan Lochte giggle with Michael Phelps even after Phelps beat him like a bad dog on Thursday.
Can't we all just get along? Well, we can until Andrew Hendrix hits a Midshipman linebacker in the numbers with an errant pass a month from now.
It may be difficult for many to buy that Notre Dame will improve on its eight-win treadmill that it seemingly can't get off of. However, there are reasons that the Irish faithful can cling to, the biggest of which is their offense.
Notre Dame has Tyler Eifert and no one else does. That is a great start.
The Bishop Dwenger High School graduate is regarded as one of, if not the, best tight ends in the country. With this year's roster, which no longer includes All-American receiver Michael Floyd, Eifert will be this team's most potent weapon.
Lining up alongside Eifert, Notre Dame also has a very good offensive line featuring center Braxston Cave and tackle Zack Martin. Even if the quarterbacks continue to throw interceptions, at the very least they will have plenty of time to do so.
That's a positive, right?
Those quarterbacks (and rest assured, there will be multiple ones this season) will be able to rely on not just one productive running back, but potentially three.
Cierre Wood quietly ran for over 1,100 yards last season and he'll share the load with Theo Riddick and Amir Carlisle, if healthy enough (ankle injury) to make his presence felt.
In all likelihood, Eifert and Riddick will be the quarterbacks' favorite targets, so the loss of All-American receiver Michael Floyd, though massive, can be overcome to a certain extent.
Defensively, Notre Dame has some questions, but they also have some answers.
There is no diminishing the fact that the Irish lost talent in Harrison Smith, Aaron Lynch, Robert Blanton and Gary Gray among others. But likewise, Kelly has done a nice job of acquiring talent on the defensive side of the ball and that depth has never been more important than in the instance of a surprise transfer (Lynch to South Florida) of the unit's second-most impactful player.
Veterans Kapron Lewis-Moore, Stephon Tuitt, and Louis Nix III, coupled with youngsters Tony Springmann and Sheldon Day, should make the loss of Lynch less traumatic.
Senior linebacker Manti Te'o will go down in Notre Dame history as one of the program's most prominent players – and he's a pretty good football player as well.
Te'o has been everything on and off of the field that former Irish coach Charlie Weis – and USC coach Pete Carroll, who wanted Te'o just as badly – thought he would be. He'll anchor this defense and receive support from veteran safeties Zeke Motta and Jamoris Slaughter.
Yes, Notre Dame is young at the crucial cornerback spots, but it is so solid at all of the other positions, perhaps that can minimize any weaknesses to a degree.
Even the brutal schedule can be viewed through a prism of success if you hold it up toward the Golden Dome just right.
Is there any reason that Notre Dame should not be 2-0 after opening games with Navy and Purdue? I did write “should.”
Those games are followed by a road game at Michigan State (the Irish have won in East Lansing before, they just need to watch that Spartan field goal unit a little more closely) and a home game against Michigan. Notre Dame could – and should - be 3-1 (maybe even 4-0 if the quarterbacks aren't atrocious) at that juncture.
A “home game” against a still evolving Miami program under Al Golden in Chicago follows the Wolverines and then games against an Andrew Luck-less Stanford squad, and a home game against Brigham Young.
A 6-1 Notre Dame squad traveling to Norman to face Oklahoma will be one of the more anticipated games of the season nationally, and that epic battle will be followed by a return to sanity (vs. Pitt, at Boston College, vs. Wake Forest).
Who knows? This squad could be loading a 9-2 record onto the plane bound for Southern Cal to close the regular season.
See, it all could come together. Are you buying in now?
I didn't think so. Looks like another 8-win season (at best) for Kelly and his lads.