Our Mark Schlabach's latest 2012 look has Notre Dame at No. 24, one spot below its previous ranking in his initial 2012 early rankings.
There's no question the Fighting Irish are a better defensive team under coach Brian Kelly, and now he's trying to address his team's lack of overall speed through recruiting. The Irish offense continues to struggle because of turnovers and poor quarterback play. Kelly will again oversee a quarterback battle in the offseason, with Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix, Everett Golson and freshman Gunner Kiel (who enrolled in January) battling for the starting job. The Irish will be without star receiver Michael Floyd, but tight end Tyler Eifert decided to come back for one more season. ESPNU 150 receiver Justin Ferguson was a major recruiting coup after losing Floyd. The defense should continue to improve, as young linemen such as 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.
Irish 2012 opponent USC sits atop the latest rankings, with other future foes Oklahoma and Michigan State coming in at Nos. 4 and 9, respectively.
Stanford is No. 13 and Michigan is No. 14, making it five Notre Dame opponents in the top 14.