These top-25 team previews also appear in the college football preview issue of ESPN The Magazine. They will be released five per day this week on ESPN Insider.
Team capsules are written by Travis Haney and Mark Schlabach, kick-starter player sections by KC Joyner and Football Outsiders season win projections by Brian Fremeau.
Last season: 8-5
Unfortunately for the Irish faithful, mediocrity is a new Notre Dame tradition. Brian Kelly will try to lead the blue and gold to at least eight wins for a third straight season, something that hasn't happened in South Bend in 19 years. To return to prominence, Kelly must pick a QB and then stick with him. Four candidates are in the running, including last year's starter, Tommy Rees (220.8 ypg in 2011). Linebacker Manti Te'o (261 tackles since 2010) returns to lead a much-improved defense that yielded just 3.78 yards per rush, its best clip since 2004. Notre Dame needs to trim its minus-1.15 turnover margin, the third worst in college football, and will turn to its secondary (7 INTs in 2011) to help the Irish be more than just another team.