Fortunately -- for me, anyway -- the Notre Dame blog wasn't around yet to do these the week before last season. Therefore, I am not one of the thousands of embarrassed prognosticators who felt last year's Notre Dame team would roll through USF behind Dayne Crist en route to a BCS-bowl season. Nope, I thought 10 turnovers amid an 0-2 start, three quarterbacks and, yes, four different helmets were in the cards all along.
This time, there will be proof for touting my genius. Away we go …
1. Notre Dame will finish the regular season 8-4 and play in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Losses at East Lansing, Norman and Los Angeles seem unavoidable, though I do think this is the year the Irish finally take down Michigan. Surely, though, another roadblock sits among this year's gantlet of opponents. Keep an eye on that Oct. 20 tilt with BYU, which has won 10 games five of the last six years and has an experienced QB in Riley Nelson. As for the bowl? The Irish take the Yankee Stadium field as the Big 12's No. 7, which will open this year because the conference will get two teams in BCS bowls. (Here comes the bold part … ) To make matters more fun, the Pinstripe Bowl, not wanting another Pitt/Notre Dame matchup in 2012, picks fifth-place Cincinnati to square off against the Irish. I wonder if there will be any storylines in the lead-up to that one.
2. Cierre Wood will have a hard time winning back his starting job. Theo Riddick has impressed everyone this offseason, and he seems to be most comfortable in the backfield. Of course, the uniqueness of the offense will have him catching passes at certain points and allow for both Riddick and Wood to be on the field together. But don't expect a production drop-off from the backfield in Weeks 1 and 2.
3. Gunner Kiel will redshirt. Everett Golson, today at least, looks like the quarterback of the future. Andrew Hendrix will probably get some time at some point, and Tommy Rees is the perfect emergency signal-caller, given his experience and knowledge. Everyone wants to see what Kiel can do, but it would probably be short-sighted to burn a year of eligibility if it's really unnecessary.
4. Miami -- yes, the big, bad Hurricanes -- will be Notre Dame's easiest opponent. The Hurricanes' thin offensive line will have trouble against Notre Dame's defensive front. They are also coming off back-to-back games against Georgia Tech and NC State, while whatever fatigue issues the Irish had from their Dublin trip should be gone with the Sept. 29 bye. Chicago will be jacked for the Irish's Oct. 6 appearance.
5. Stephon Tuitt will make a lot of people forget about Aaron Lynch. He is more versatile, and he is more reliable. He is much bigger, too. Let's not forget that he missed three games last year because of a missed class and mono, so his numbers didn't leap off the page the way Lynch's did in Year 1. Tuitt is primed for a breakout sophomore season that will put him on the national radar, along with the radar of many pro scouts entering 2013.