Notre Dame comes in at No. 23 in colleague Mark Schlabach's way-too-early 2012 top 25.
Florida State, which beat the Irish in the Dec. 29 Champs Sports Bowl, is No. 8. (Outside the top-five, which is surprising to some of you who took Schlabach's pre-bowl prediction a little too seriously.)
Irish opponent USC comes in at No. 2, behind LSU. Oklahoma, another Irish opponent in 2012, is at No. 5. Michigan State is No. 9.
Michigan (No. 11) and Stanford (No. 17) make it five Notre Dame 2012 opponents in the way-too-early top 25.
On Notre Dame, Schlabach writes:
The jury still seems to be out on whether coach Brian Kelly can return the Fighting Irish to national prominence. There's no question the Irish are a better defensive team under Kelly, but the offense continues to struggle because of turnovers and poor quarterback play. Kelly will again oversee a quarterback battle during the offseason, with Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson battling for the starting job. They'll be without star receiver Michael Floyd, but tight end Tyler Eifert decided to come back for one more season. The defense should continue to improve as young linemen like Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt get stronger. Notre Dame's schedule in 2012 is daunting, with nine games against teams that played in bowl games, including road contests at Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC.