Notre Dame just finished its 2017 season, but it’s never too early to take a glance ahead. That’s exactly what Athlon Sports did this week.
On Wednesday, Athlon Sports released its “Way-Too-Early” College Football Top 25 poll for the start of the 2018 season. Notre Dame came in on the list at No. 15.
Here’s why Athlon Sports included the Irish at that spot:
After a disappointing 2016 season, the Fighting Irish rebounded with a 10-win campaign in 2017. Can Notre Dame take another step forward and compete for a CFB Playoff berth next fall? Coach Brian Kelly’s team will find out right away where it stacks up with an opener against Michigan, along with a date against Stanford on Sept. 29. The schedule also features matchups at Virginia Tech and USC, along with a home game against Florida State in mid-November. After Ian Book guided the Fighting Irish to a bowl win over LSU, the sophomore-to-be will compete with Brandon Wimbush for the starting quarterback job. Running back Josh Adams and receiver Equanimeous St. Brown could leave early for the NFL, which would add to the question marks on offense. Standout left tackle Mike McGlinchey finished his eligibility after the Citrus Bowl, and All-America guard Quenton Nelson is leaving South Bend early for the NFL. The arrival of coordinator Mike Elko provided a boost for the defense in 2017, and this unit limited opponents to 21.5 points a game. Another step forward is within reach next fall for the Fighting Irish. Linebacker Te’von Coney and lineman Jerry Tillery could bolt early to the NFL, but Drue Tranquill, Julian Love and Nick Coleman return to anchor the secondary. Additionally, Navy transfer Alohi Gilman should be an impact addition at safety.
As Athlon Sports noted, the Irish face Michigan, who was No. 7 on the “Way-Too-Early” list, on opening weekend, but Notre Dame squares off against USC and Stanford as well, both of whom were also ahead of the Irish on the early rankings. Furthermore, Notre Dame will play Virginia Tech, who was ranked at No. 16.
The Irish finished 10-3 this season, reaching the double-digit total in victories and winning their bowl game for the first time since 1993.
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