Irish ranked sixth by Athlon

Expectations are running high for Notre Dame, which returns the nucleus of last year's team. Most preseason polls have the Irish ranked in the lower part of the Top 25.

Athlon Sports is even more bullish on the Domers than most. In its Top 25 countdown, Athlon ranks Notre Dame all the way up at No. 6 for 2011.

"Sprinkle [Michael] Floyd back into the mix, maximize [Cierre} Wood’s abilities, and find a quarterback who can avoid the crucial mistake, and it looks like the Irish should be able to generate enough offense to accommodate an improving and suddenly depth-laden defense. The combination of [Brian] Kelly’s offensive track record and the improving defense could send the Irish in pursuit of a BCS bid in 2011."

Talk about optimism. The Irish deserve a Top 25 ranking based on the way they finished last year and what they bring back, but No. 6 is awfully high. That's the kind of preseason hype that makes people criticize Notre Dame for being overhyped. Still, the ceiling is high for this year's team.

Athlon also offers up its list of the 10 greatest Notre Dame players in history and the greatest moments in program history.