Alabama is still the two-time reigning national champion, and the Crimson Tide are still the favorites to win it all in 2013.
But Notre Dame has been making some waves following a January to forget and a February that has gotten off to a tremendous start after the Irish landed the nation's No. 4 recruiting class on national signing day.
Colleague Mark Schlabach has released his second edition of the Way-Too-Early Preseason Top 25 poll, and Notre Dame has jumped three spots, from No. 12 to No. 9.
After unexpectedly leading the Fighting Irish to a 12-0 record during the regular season in 2012 and a spot in the Discover BCS National Championship, coach Brian Kelly landed the school's first top-five recruiting class since 2006. Even without All-American linebacker Manti Te'o, the Irish figure to again be stingy on defense in 2013, especially with star nose guard Louis Nix III and defensive end Stephon Tuitt coming back. Kelly added a lot of speed and athleticism in this recruiting class for his defense, including linebackers Jaylon Smith and Doug Randolph, tackle Eddie Vanderdoes and safety Max Redfield. There's also more help for the offense, including running back Greg Bryant. The Irish bring back seven starters on offense, and quarterback Everett Golson figures to be a better passer in his second season as a starter. Notre Dame's schedule in 2013 again looks daunting, with road games at Michigan and Stanford and home contests against Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC, plus a matchup against Arizona State at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Other teams of note? Notre Dame rival Stanford is up to No. 2, which means the Irish should have another marquee regular-season finale circled on their schedule this upcoming season. Michigan, which hosts Notre Dame in Week 2, jumped 11 spots, up to No. 11. Oklahoma, which visits Notre Dame Stadium on Sept. 28, is No. 15.
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