Folks, the blog is back! And by back, I mean starting off the season right with college football.

I walked outside this morning and it felt like a college football Saturday, the breeze gently rolling in while the grass covered in dew. It was a reminder that the best time of the year is upon us, but this time with a lot more to offer for Irish fans.

We all know that this college football season bodes a plethora of headlines: Urban Meyer’s suspension, Alabama’s Dynasty, Clemson’s possible return, and who’s gonna be the dark horse in the CFB Playoff.

Well, read no further. I can tell you the Dark Horse..

Here’s your hint: They hail from South Bend, IN

In Kelly’s 9th year as head coach, there’s no more important year than the current. Two years ago he was on the “hot seat” and everyone across the country thought he was out. Then, one year later he had what some would call a redeeming season. A 10-3 record was good when comparing the 4-win season prior. But, Notre Dame holds itself to much higher win percentages. And by higher win percentages I mean a 0 in the loss column.

This year brings a lot of optimism that the Irish haven’t seen since preseason 2012. By that, I mean a solid defense that isn’t young on any front and an established QB (or QBs) that can mix up the offense on the ground and in the air. All of these sound great, but getting over the hump is what’s looming over Kelly and his Irish coaching career. A lot of good seasons could have been great without a few late-season slumps.

Heading into this season the bar is high and can only stay there for Notre Dame. Already preseason top-15 ranked, they face 5 top-25 teams on their 12 game schedule. The stakes are no higher than game 1 with Michigan coming into South Bend.

Everyone knows the last time that Michigan came into Notre Dame Under the lights. I remember that game fondly, as I was in the stands. The Wolverines will come in with a vengeance from their last stop into South Bend and a ranking that makes them a worthy opponent right from the start.

Harbaugh and his crew will look to top all expectations early, with a early season stunner. Kelly and his Irish have an experienced defense, tenured QBs, and athletic, young targets that can show out from day one.

The rest of the season doesn’t get any easier, with games against the likes of Florida State, Stanford, USC, and Virginia Tech. The good news is, over half of these games are in the confines of Notre Dame Stadium, where 80,000 fans are rooting for Notre Dame, rather than the opponent.

The likes of a CFB Playoff shoot are engrained with consistency at the forefront, which again hasn’t been something Notre Dame fans have seen in years.

To all my fellow fans, be optimistic heading into 2018. The Irish are looking at a schedule that has them preseason favored in every game, but also tough enough to get them into CFP game if they win out. Kelly and the rest of the team are tenured, which in recent years has been a stigma of at least one group. Last year was the defense. This year, there really isn’t one. Only a thin WR and RB situation.

Look forward to a season full of exciting games, ESPN conversations, and nervous finishes, as I think there will be a lot of close games that come down to the wire.

Here’s my thought though, a 11-1 finish this year and a berth to the CFP. You heard it here first 🏆