SI.COM'S STEWART MANDEL THINKS NOTRE DAME IS GOING TO BE GOOD...WAIT...AM I DRUNK, DID I READ THIS RIGHT?
Sports Illustrated's lead college football writer Stewart Mandel has never been a big fan of Notre Dame. Generally when he gets the chance to throw a couple of jabs at the program he will take off the gloves and wail away. But today he posted an article that actually praises the direction the program is headed with head coach Brian Kelly and the recruiting efforts. Color me smitten!
The words have been uttered countless times over the past two decades, and each time they've proven premature. They elicit hope from a fan base desperate to reclaim its now-distant glory and groans from every other fan base in the country.
So brace yourself, because you're going to be hearing them again and again over the next 12 months.
Notre Dame is coming back.
He points out the resurgence was led by a Notre Dame defense that only gave up four offensive touchdowns in the final 5 games and the scoring defense improved from 63rd in 2009 to top 25 in 2010 (23rd) despite playing the second hardest schedule in the nation. With five star elite defensive recruits such as Aaron Lynch, Ishaq Williams, and Stephon Tuitt along with a bevy of other talented recruits on the defensive side of the ball coming to South Bend this year it looks like the Fighting Irish will actually have a top 10 defense. Notre Dame has 9 defensive starters back but players with the skill and speed of Lynch, Ishaq, and Tuitt will make instant impacts their freshmen season.
What Notre Dame accomplished at the end of the season was nothing short of remarkable. After starting off the season losing nail biters to Michigan and Michigan State and then getting completely blown out by Stanford and Navy followed by another questionable loss to Tulsa (Kelly's biggest snafu so far as a coach not kicking the field goal) and with season ending injuries to the starting QB, tailback, tight end, and defensive tackle a lot of teams especially Notre Dame in the past would have cowered and run home with their tails tucked between their legs. A Charlie Weis led team certainly would have. But Kelly's Notre Dame didn't. They came back and they actually lived up to the "fighting" in their name. They beat the piss out of top 15 Utah at home. They crushed Army in Yankee Stadium. They finally got the USC monkey off their back and won for the first time in the storied rivalry since Bob Davie was roaming the sidelines. And then to finish it all off they beat the living shit out of Da U Miami in El Paso. All of this with a true freshman QB in Tommy Rees.
Notre Dame is going in the right direction no doubt. While I don't need Mandel's praise to make it feel legit I can say it's nice to get something positive written about the program for a change from a national media member. The "Fighting" Irish are back. It's going to be fun to listen to all the haters come out now. The program has followed the lead of Kelly and the staff. They won't take no for an answer on the recruiting front and they most certainly won't back down on the football field. Let's just say Notre Dame is ready to get back to where they should have never left: a college football powerhouse.