Midseason report: Notre Dame

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Record: 4-2

Seems like it was years ago that the Irish were 0-2 and panic mode had set in across South Bend. But four straight wins — three in dominant fashion — have significantly altered the mood around the program, which is beginning to show the kind of offensive fireworks expected with a Brian Kelly-run unit. Notre Dame is clicking on all cylinders there, with Tommy Rees showing the growth Kelly has wanted and quieting those calling for his head and doubting Kelly's decision to replace Dayne Crist after one mediocre half in Week 1.The running game has exceeded everyone's expectations but its own, with Jonas Gray answering Kelly's call in grand fashion following a costly Week 1 fumble. And the defense, save for the fourth quarter of Week 2 at Michigan, has been a force to be reckoned with, particularly against the run. There is still no clear answer in the punt return game, which can become a bigger problem as the season progresses, but Notre Dame has managed to weather the storm through six weeks. Plenty of games remain after this coming bye week, and the Irish have certainly shown they are capable of tripping over themselves, but that finale at Stanford is looking more and more like it may be a play-in contest for a BCS bowl.

Offensive MVP: WR Michael Floyd. The senior has treated a rocky offseason like a distant memory, obliterating the records of every Irish receiver who came before him en route to a 53-catch, 639-yard first half of the season. On an offense featuring several skill players who have surpassed preseason expectations, Floyd has been the brightest star of the group. Just look at the offensive production at Pitt, where he was held in check, for proof of how valuable Floyd is to the unit.

Defensive MVP: LB Manti Te'o. The junior leads the team in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks and is on pace for 127.8 tackles. Yes, that is a little less than his ridiculous 133-tackle output last season, but he has improved as a player since then, showing much more discipline and not going for the knockout blow in the open field. He has also embraced the role of leader along with team captain Harrison Smith, becoming more vocal when he needs to and helping set a tone for the many freshmen on the unit.