The season is getting closer and closer now. Just about 10 days away from Notre Dame's opener against South Florida. So it seems like a good time to answer some Irish email:
JT from Duluth, Ga., writes: I wanted to know if you feel that Michael Floyd will be or already is the best WR in the country or is behind Blackmon at OSU. Also, with the schedule they have what is the one game the Irish have to be careful not to overlook to go undefeated? Thanks.
Brian Bennett: I don't think Floyd is the best receiver in the country. I believe that title belongs to either Justin Blackmon or Alshon Jeffery at South Carolina. Regardless, Floyd is in the top tier and could have a huge season. As for which game not to overlook, well, you could say all of them. But two that could trip them up are the opener against a pretty good South Florida team and the road game at Pittsburgh that follows the tough Michigan-Michigan State duo.
Colin from Easton, Pa., writes: Do you think that Dayne Crist, considering he'll be playing under Brian Kelly's system for a 2nd year, will be able to put up the same type of numbers Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen were able to in their respective senior years?
Brian Bennett: First of all, Clausen left after his junior year, when he threw for 3,722 yards and 28 touchdowns. Quinn threw for 3,426 yards and 37 touchdowns as a senior. By comparison's sake, Crist and Tommy Rees combined to throw for 3,139 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2010. So it would take some improvement by Crist and the offense as a whole, but you would expect that in Year 2 of the Kelly system. I think Crist will fall short of those huge number put up by Quinn and Clausen, though, because this team will rely more on its defense and running games than those Charlie Weis outfits did.
Samuel C. from Virginia Beach, Va., writes: How important is it for Notre Dame to land a top running back in this recruiting class?
Brian Bennett: Sam, I hope you saw my post checking in with ESPN.com recruiting expert Tom Luginbill last week. Luginbill said that the Irish are in on the nation's top running back recruit but other than that, don't look likely to land a premier talent in the backfield. And while the program could use some depth and more talent at running back, I don't think it's necessarily a must for this class. Cierre Wood will have two seasons of eligibility remaining after this one, while freshmen George Atkinson and Cam McDaniel are true freshman who will play this season. Notre Dame definitely needs to add more bodies there, and a big back would be nice. But it doesn't necessarily have to be a blue-chipper.
Kevin C. from Bethlehem, Pa., writes: I personally didn't think Notre Dame had a "good" win last year. Do you seriously think ND has the athletes to COMPETE in a potential BCS bowl? I think their RB depth and lack of a run game this season will cause them to start no better than 3-1 (Michigan & MSU..won't beat both)...So if say the Irish ended the year in a BCS bowl...could they beat Oregon, OU, Alabama, FSU, etc? I don't see it...
Brian Bennett: I see what you're saying, Kevin, but I would count the USC win as a good one. Sure, the Trojans weren't as good as they used to be, but beating your longtime rival on the road to snap a long losing streak still qualifies as a good one. Your question is valid, though. The Irish have been blown out of recent BCS appearances. A lot depends on the matchup. I think Notre Dame could compete with a lot of teams but could have major trouble with an SEC power. Then again, just getting to the BCS would be an accomplishment for this team.
Micheal from South Bend writes: Closing out the year at Stanford will be arguably the toughest game of the year for the Irish, but putting that game aside, which other matchups present the biggest challenges for Notre Dame?
Brian Bennett: I mentioned the Pitt and USF games as trickier than they may appear. Of course, the Michigan and Michigan State games will be difficult. We know that Navy has been a thorn in the side of the Irish in the last few years. USC and Boston College won't be pushovers. I think Purdue will be improved and will be lying in wait to spring the upset. So while there may not be a lot of Top 10 opponents on the schedule, the road won't be easy.