Athlon ranks ND at No. 8

Athlon Sports is one of several magazines college football junkies like myself snatch from newsstands every summer, all in the hopes of whetting our appetite until the season finally arrives.

The magazine's website is counting down the top teams in college football this month, and it arrived this week at Notre Dame, which it ranks eighth overall heading into 2013.

The preview touts Everett Golson and says the offense can improve greatly if it simply converts more of its red zone chances into touchdowns. Like everyone else, it touts the defensive line as the strength of a defense that finished second nationally in scoring.

Accompanying each preview is a debate section with one key question. In the case of the Irish, the question is simple: Will Notre Dame play in a BCS bowl in 2013?

Three out of the four writers say yes. Here's Steven Lassan's take:

There’s no question Brian Kelly has Notre Dame moving in the right direction. The Fighting Irish is coming off an appearance in the national title game, and the on-field success has translated to top-10 classes on the recruiting trail.

Even though Notre Dame was easily handled by Alabama in the BCS Championship, this team should be in the mix for 10 or 11 wins in 2013. The offense played better in the second half of the season, and quarterback Everett Golson is due to break out with another offseason to work under Brian Kelly. While linebacker Manti Te’o must be replaced, the defensive line is one of the best in the nation, and the secondary allowed under 200 yards per game last season.

The schedule is challenging, with road games against Michigan and Stanford, home matchups against Michigan State, Oklahoma, USC and a neutral site affair versus Arizona State. However, Notre Dame should be able to rank inside of the top 10 in the BCS standings before the bowl games, which will ensure the Fighting Irish a chance to play in one of college football’s top postseason destinations.

To read the debate, click here.