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Notre Dame mailbag

August, 24, 2011
The season is getting closer and closer now. Just about 10 days away from Notre Dame's opener against South Florida. So it seems like a good time to answer some Irish email:

JT from Duluth, Ga., writes: I wanted to know if you feel that Michael Floyd will be or already is the best WR in the country or is behind Blackmon at OSU. Also, with the schedule they have what is the one game the Irish have to be careful not to overlook to go undefeated? Thanks.

Brian Bennett: I don't think Floyd is the best receiver in the country. I believe that title belongs to either Justin Blackmon or Alshon Jeffery at South Carolina. Regardless, Floyd is in the top tier and could have a huge season. As for which game not to overlook, well, you could say all of them. But two that could trip them up are the opener against a pretty good South Florida team and the road game at Pittsburgh that follows the tough Michigan-Michigan State duo.

Colin from Easton, Pa., writes: Do you think that Dayne Crist, considering he'll be playing under Brian Kelly's system for a 2nd year, will be able to put up the same type of numbers Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen were able to in their respective senior years?

Brian Bennett: First of all, Clausen left after his junior year, when he threw for 3,722 yards and 28 touchdowns. Quinn threw for 3,426 yards and 37 touchdowns as a senior. By comparison's sake, Crist and Tommy Rees combined to throw for 3,139 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2010. So it would take some improvement by Crist and the offense as a whole, but you would expect that in Year 2 of the Kelly system. I think Crist will fall short of those huge number put up by Quinn and Clausen, though, because this team will rely more on its defense and running games than those Charlie Weis outfits did.

Samuel C. from Virginia Beach, Va., writes: How important is it for Notre Dame to land a top running back in this recruiting class?

Brian Bennett: Sam, I hope you saw my post checking in with recruiting expert Tom Luginbill last week. Luginbill said that the Irish are in on the nation's top running back recruit but other than that, don't look likely to land a premier talent in the backfield. And while the program could use some depth and more talent at running back, I don't think it's necessarily a must for this class. Cierre Wood will have two seasons of eligibility remaining after this one, while freshmen George Atkinson and Cam McDaniel are true freshman who will play this season. Notre Dame definitely needs to add more bodies there, and a big back would be nice. But it doesn't necessarily have to be a blue-chipper.

Kevin C. from Bethlehem, Pa., writes: I personally didn't think Notre Dame had a "good" win last year. Do you seriously think ND has the athletes to COMPETE in a potential BCS bowl? I think their RB depth and lack of a run game this season will cause them to start no better than 3-1 (Michigan & MSU..won't beat both)...So if say the Irish ended the year in a BCS bowl...could they beat Oregon, OU, Alabama, FSU, etc? I don't see it...

Brian Bennett: I see what you're saying, Kevin, but I would count the USC win as a good one. Sure, the Trojans weren't as good as they used to be, but beating your longtime rival on the road to snap a long losing streak still qualifies as a good one. Your question is valid, though. The Irish have been blown out of recent BCS appearances. A lot depends on the matchup. I think Notre Dame could compete with a lot of teams but could have major trouble with an SEC power. Then again, just getting to the BCS would be an accomplishment for this team.

Micheal from South Bend writes: Closing out the year at Stanford will be arguably the toughest game of the year for the Irish, but putting that game aside, which other matchups present the biggest challenges for Notre Dame?

Brian Bennett: I mentioned the Pitt and USF games as trickier than they may appear. Of course, the Michigan and Michigan State games will be difficult. We know that Navy has been a thorn in the side of the Irish in the last few years. USC and Boston College won't be pushovers. I think Purdue will be improved and will be lying in wait to spring the upset. So while there may not be a lot of Top 10 opponents on the schedule, the road won't be easy.

Notre Dame mailbag

June, 30, 2011
Hello and welcome to another Notre Dame mailbag. I know it's been a while since we last chatted, but with me trying to learn the Big Ten and the Irish keeping things pretty quiet -- mostly -- during the summer, we took a little hiatus. There are only so many "Who do you think will start at quarterback" questions I can answer in an offseason.

But we're getting ever closer to the season, and things are starting to pick up. Keep sending in your questions about the Golden Domers:

Kollin B. from Weatherford, Okla., writes: Brian, what's the percentage that Michael Floyd will get to play this year? I'm hoping they're just making it a long process to reinstate him because it's the right thing to do but, at the end they should reinstate him, right?

Brian Bennett: Kollin, I'd put the chances at 99 percent. The 1 percent remains because Floyd could mess up and get in trouble between now and September (although given his track record, perhaps that should be higher). Every indication is that Floyd will return. He's already working out with teammates this summer, and he had his DUI charge adjudicated on Wednesday. I'd be shocked at this point if he's not in the lineup for the opener.

Jay G. from Los Angeles writes: Which BK will we see this year? The fiery screamer BK that we saw during last season's first half, or BK the patient teacher in the latter half?

Brian Bennett: Having covered Brian Kelly at Cincinnati, I can tell you that he is always going to be intense on the sidelines. Quarterbacks usually bear the brunt of his harsh words, though he can also be quick to offer encouragement. I think Kelly knew better than to berate Tommy Rees, a true freshman who was thrown into the fire, and Rees played relatively well anyway. If I'm Rees or Dayne Crist this season, I would expect to get chewed out if I do something dumb in a game. But the Irish should be used to Kelly's approach by now.

Roy B. from Columbus, Ohio, writes: With all the returning starters on both sides of the ball, and a defense that may have finally passed the offense, what are ND's chances of actually competting for a national championship? Realistically, they have to beat Michigan in Ann Arbor, USC at home and Stanford on the road in the season finale. If they get off to a good fast start, I think ND has a chance to run the table. But the key is getting off to a 3-0 start. What do you think?

Brian Bennett: Well, I'd say the key to running the table is winning all your games, but I'm no mathematician. I don't see this as a national championship club. The overall depth and talent just isn't to that level yet. But I do think the Irish have a very realistic chance of getting to a BCS game. A strong start is almost always important, given the makeup of their schedule. The Michigan/Michigan State games are big swing games. And don't overlook South Florida in the opener.

Ted A. from Essex, Md., writes: Do the Irish offensive and defensive lines look like they can be a strong point this year?

Brian Bennett: Absolutely. I'd say Notre Dame has more questions at running back, quarterback, receiver outside of Floyd and cornerback depth than in the trenches, where the team is deep and talented. And when was the last time we could say that about Notre Dame?

John from Reston, Va., writes: Suppose you have a crystal ball and you know the Irish only drop two this year. Who are they? MSU? Stanford?

Brian Bennett: Well, first of all, I'd use that crystal ball to find out the Powerball numbers. But after I won that and was lounging on my private island, I'd take a look at the Notre Dame schedule. I think the Irish will beat Michigan State; the game is at home this season, and the Spartans might not be quite as good as last season. The Stanford game looks awfully tough, though I don't expect the Cardinal to be as strong as they were in 2010, either. If I had to pick two losses, I'd say Stanford and then something off the board, as Notre Dame of late has seemed to drop at least one unexpected game per season. Just for fun, let's go with Pittsburgh.

Notre Dame mailbag

April, 15, 2011
It's been a long time -- too long -- since I opened up the Irish mailbag. That's a 15-yard penalty on me. But with the Notre Dame spring game approaching, it's a good time to tackle some of your e-mails:

Nate C. from Anchorage, Alaska, writes: The Irish finished the 2010 season with a lot momentum thanks to their defense. Do you see the 2011 Notre Dame defense as a work in progress, a force to be reckoned with,...or something in between?

Brian Bennett: I'll go somewhere in between. All teams are, of course, a work in progress at this time of year, but with so many key returning starters back, this unit should be able to pick up where it left off. Is the Irish defense as good as it looked at the end of last season? I'm not completely sold on that yet. But there is a lot of talent here, and Brian Kelly thinks his outside linebackers can get to a different level this year. Notre Dame is not far from being a force on defense.

Tim S. from Mount Laurel, N.J., writes: Can you see Aaron Lynch or Ishaq Williams making a impact this season and how have both looked in spring practice?

Brian Bennett: Definitely. Both look great in their uniforms, and though they're still incredibly young, going through spring practice has helped them immensely. They're too talented not to contribute. Maybe not starters, especially not right away, but they will add to the depth and should have really good careers.

Diane E. from Collierville, Tenn., writes: Given the way Tommy Rees stepped in as quarterback for the last few regular season games and the bowl game, why is he not considered the frontrunner at quarterback? He showed remarkable poise as the quarterback and for the most part made very good decisions. I understand that Dayne Crist was injured but even before his injury he was not all not effective -- see Navy game and also unfortunately he seems prone to injuries. Granted he has more experience but should that really matter if you aren't that effective?

Brian Bennett: I completely understand the sentiment, and it's hard to argue against what Rees did. I do think, however, that Crist has more upside, physically and athletically, than Rees. Remember that Crist was starting in the first half of the season when the entire team was figuring everything out. By the time Rees started, the Irish were playing more conservatively and asking less out of their quarterback. I think Crist will start this season, but Kelly won't hesitate to turn to Rees if something goes wrong.

Austin H. from Smyrna, Tenn., writes: With all the great depth at QB coming into the fall season, is there a chance we will see a few different packages to utilize our QB variety at ND? Also, how about some type of Wildcat package with Cierre Wood?

Brian Bennett: Kelly told me he really thinks that he will use either Andrew Hendrix or Everett Golson in some packages this year as a change of pace, and that the Irish can even run the option with those two. I think you have to be careful getting too clever and ruining the momentum of your starting quarterback. As for the Wildcat, I think it's more likely we'd see a guy like Theo Riddick running that, because the Irish are thin at running back as it is.

Mike F. from Akron, Ohio, writes: How are the young QB's Hendrix and Golson looking?

Brian Bennett: They're athletic and doing some good things. They will both get the heavy reps at Saturday's spring game, and that will be an excellent chance to evaluate both of them..

Jadon from Canandaigua, N.Y., writes: I'm about as big of a Notre Dame as they come and there is nothing more that I would like to see than Michael Floyd being on the field for South Florida. But, I do realize that this is a serious issue and I believe it could be used as a precedent setter for Kelly. Therefore I think he Kelly has to suspend him at least one game and send a message to his guys that this behavior is unacceptable and won't be tolerated. I just wanted know your thoughts on the whole scenario and if you could see Coach Kelly handing out an even lengthier suspension.

Brian Bennett: I heartily agree and wrote as much earlier this week. It may be nothing more than symbolic, but I think it sends a terrible message if Floyd doesn't at least miss the opener. The DUI was not his first problem with alcohol, it's a serious offense and he was supposed to be a team captain and leader. I'm sure a lot of schools in the same predicament would start their star in the opener and not think twice about it. But Notre Dame is supposed to be different -- at least that's what the school tries to tell us.

Noach from New York City writes: How will the Texas Longhorn TV network, the Big 12's new TV deal, and other shifts in the college football television landscape impact Notre Dame's TV strategy? Should we expect to see a Notre Dame channel soon? And will that be part of or separate from their deal with NBC?

Brian Bennett: You mean NBC isn't the Notre Dame Network? I'm not a media rights analyst, but I think the Irish are in a good position here, as the program seems to be on the rise at precisely the right time. Better records means more TV ratings, and give the hunger for live sports programming -- a well as the NBC/Comcast merger -- I would think Notre Dame will be an attractive property for some TV network to throw gobs of money at in the near future.

Notre Dame mailbag

February, 4, 2011
It's been a while since I opened the ol' Irish mailbag, and I apologize for the delay. Let's get to some of your questions:

Derek B. from Huntington, Ind., writes: How will Notre Dame's defensive class shape up for the 2011 season? Will some players have immediate impact? Also, are the Irish going to be improved within their secondary next fall? What's your prediction for their 2011 record?

Brian Bennett: It's hard to know how many true freshmen will contribute, especially on the defensive line where it usually takes time for players to build strength in the weight room before they're ready to compete at this level. The fact that Aaron Lynch enrolled in January is a great sign, and I think he will likely see some early playing time. The guy who seems most likely to have an impact on defense right away is Ishaq Williams, who's already a beast at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds. He can play outside linebacker and make plays a la Mant Te'o a year ago. The secondary has experience but lacks depth, which is a reason why Bennett Jackson was moved to corner. If the Irish can stay healthy back there, they should be pretty good. It's way too early to be predicting 2011 records.

Red from Fallbrook, Calif., writes: What is it going to take for ND to become a national power again? They seem to be too slow in most positions to be competitive. Is the problem getting the great players in there by not lowering the admission standards? I can care less if a great player doesnt have the SAT scores. Get those players, because college football needs ND to be relevant once again.

Brian Bennett: Red is obviously not someone who breathlessly follows recruiting, because Notre Dame clearly has brought in outstanding players at the defensive line position. That's been one of the key criticisms of the program. I don't think they looked too slow against USC or Miami late in the season, and those programs are known for having a little speed. The Irish aren't far away, and they don't need to scrap their principles to get there.

Kevin C. from McLain, Miss., writes: I know it is highly unlikely that the Big 12 will add new teams any time soon or Notre Dame will join a conference, but I think if the Big 12 could give Notre Dame the same deal they gave Texas, it would be hard for Notre Dame to refuse. It would create recruiting inroads to the east for all the states in the Big 12. If the Big 12 let BYU and Notre Dame have their TV deals, is it possible that the Big 12 could be 12 again?

Brian Bennett: You have to remember that it's about more than just a TV deal for Notre Dame. The school, the program and its alumni cherish the independence as a basic fabric of their being, and they want to be able to craft their own national schedule. While it would be exciting to play Texas and Oklahoma every year, I'm not sure Irish fans would be as fired up about playing Iowa State, Kansas State and Texas Tech. If Notre Dame ever joins a conference, it will be the Big 10.

RuggedRamsQB10 from Amsterdam writes: With the returning players and wealth of young talent coming in off this recruiting class, do you see Notre Dame getting at least 9-10 wins next year? Not exactly saying a BCS bowl game, but maybe even a Gator Bowl or Champs Sports Bowl invitation?

Brian Bennett: I believe Notre Dame is a top 20-type team to start 2011, and the schedule is manageable. Given that the 2010 squad won eight games despite battling many major injuries and adjusting to Brian Kelly's system, I think it's entirely reasonable to expect this team to reach the nine- or 10-win mark this year.

James from Dallas writes: Brian, it's not too early to do a fascinating story on the quarterback competition at ND. Crist, skilled injury prone, mature, with incredible intangibles may well be a long list candidate for ND's 12th Heisman. The coaches rave about the redshirt freshman Hendrix physical tools. Rees, the romantic fan favorite has never lost, but is doomed to permanent flashcard duty. Golson is the wild card dual threat freshman. It doesn't get any better! All four capable of winning lots of games. Can I copyright this?!

Brian Bennett: James, I'm not sure there's enough internet bandwidth to handle all the words that are going to be spilled over the Notre Dame quarterback derby this spring. It's going to be fascinating. I was intrigued with Kelly's following comments on signing day:

"I think as we get our hands on this, at the quarterback position, it's pretty clear that Tommy Rees and Everett Golson are two different quarterbacks relative to the style. So I think what you'll see you'll see Tommy Rees and most likely Dayne Crist and the other quarterbacks fit into that category. Then on the other side of the ledger you'll have Everett Golson. And within our offensive structure, we can go full out spread, you know, with Everett Golson. Or we can modify it based upon the quarterback's strengths with the other quarterbacks that we have."

Sounds like Kelly is thinking of putting different packages in for Golson, which could be a lot of fun to watch. Of course, if you watched Kelly at Cincinnati, you know that he's fully capable of juggling quarterbacks with a lot of success.

Notre Dame mailbag

December, 23, 2010
Santa has come early with a quick Notre Dame mailbag before the holidays. Ho, ho, Te'o!

Wes M. from Georgetown, Ky., writes: Do you think Bob Diaco will scheme against Jacory Harris like the Bears did against Vick? Focus on keeping outside contain and push him back to the middle of the pocket and hopefully hurry him into more bad throws.

Brian Bennett: Harris is no Vick. And from what I've seen from him this year, you don't necessarily need to pressure him to make bad throws -- he does it anyway. We're not even sure if Harris will start this game, but as solid as the Notre Dame defense was the final month of the season, I like the matchup for the Irish.

Brendan D. from New York City writes: With next year's quarterback situation a bit up in the air, what are your predictions about starting QB? Do you believe that Dayne Crist will be the starter or will we see Rees, Hendrix, or even Everett Golson at the helm. (This is just a very early prediction of course.)

Brian Bennett: I think that if Crist comes back healthy, he will regain his starting role. Brian Kelly just really likes his leadership. However, I would see it as a tenuous hold on the role at best, especially with the way Tommy Rees has played. Competition there could be a very good thing for all involved next year.

Ed B. from Claymont, Del., writes: How did the Champs Sports Bowl not take ND? The won't get another shot at ND with Kelly's track record? ND will be in the BCS the next three years.

Brian Bennett: I admire your optimism, Ed. The Champs Sports people rolled the dice, figuring they could get a better but not quite BCS-level Notre Dame team in the next three years. Of course, they run the risk not only of the Irish going to the BCS in that period, but also that the Irish could fail to reach bowl eligibility. The Sun and Gator bowls got shut out of Notre Dame during their four-year agreement. The Champs Sports folks also thought a ranked West Virginia team would bring a lot of fans, but ticket sales have been very slow. They must be rethinking that now, though I think things worked out quite nicely for Notre Dame with a juicy Hyundai Sun Bowl matchup.

Vic from Ft. Collins, Colo., writes: How is it year after year that ND is ranked in the top 25 in the preseason polls? The team hasn't proven that they seserve that respect at all.

Brian Bennett: Well, I disagree with your premise. In the past four preseason polls, Notre Dame has been ranked just once. Perhaps you're thinking of the Rockne years?

Marcus from Portland, Ore., writes: Is Notre Dame still relevant? Before beating Hawaii the last time they won a bowl game was 1994. Who cares anymore?

Brian Bennett: Well, Marcus, obviously you do, since you live in Portland yet took time out of your day to send an e-mail to the Notre Dame blog. Hmmm.

Glenn M. from Naples, Fla., writes: Notre Dame has to join a big conference to be relevant again. I know the reasons why not but look at Notre Dame's weak schedule, lack of player focus when you get two losses, recruiting for a nonconference schedule and much more. Haven't they seen what joining the BIG EAST has done for the hoops program?

Brian Bennett: Weak schedule, huh? The NCAA says that Notre Dame played the toughest schedule in America this year. Lack of focus? I guess, if you mean by the way the Irish won their past three games playing their best football of the season. Recruiting star players hasn't been a problem except at a few key positions, and I don't think joining a league would do anything to change that. And if you think Notre Dame basketball and Notre Dame football are the same animal, you don't know your Harangody from a hole in the ground.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Notre Dame mailbag

December, 3, 2010
It's been a quiet week in Golden Dome land, as Notre Dame coaches went out recruiting after the season-ending victory at USC. The team returns to practice this weekend to get ready for an unknown bowl opponent and an unknown destination. At least for a couple more days.

Let's deal with what we know:

Jim from Jamestown, Ky., writes: How sure/definite is the chance that Notre Dame will be going to the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando? I've already bought tickets to the game for my family based on ESPN's predictions ... have the hotel room, and scheduled to see Mickey while we're there. Or, do I need to put my tickets on Ebay now?

Brian Bennett: Wow, you really gambled, Jim, and I'm not sure you'll like the final card. Here's the deal: You probably need Connecticut to lose and West Virginia to win this weekend (or for West Virginia to lose) so that the Champs Sports takes Notre Dame instead of the Mountaineers. That bowl is leaning toward a 9-3, ranked West Virginia team instead of a 7-5 Irish, knowing they only get one shot in four years at Notre Dame and wanting a better edition of the Domers. I think quietly Notre Dame will politic not to be invited to the Champs game (they're contractually obligated to go) so they can take one of the Pac-10's spots in either the Bridgepoint Education Holiday or Hyundai Sun bowls.

But, hey, Mickey will still be there no matter what.

Stucko from Marquette, Mich., writes: Looking at the bowls with ND's short- and long-term best interests in mind, would it be best for the Irish to stay with the company line: "We want to play the best opponent possible," or look at: "We want to put ourselves in the best position to win?"

Brian Bennett: I don't think the opponent matters all that much. In the end, people forget very quickly who wins or loses minor bowl games. The Irish likely will want the spot with the best exposure, both on TV and for recruiting. That's why I think they'd want to go to the Holiday Bowl and use it to help with California recruiting. That plus the USC win could be quite helpful.

Michael from Atlanta writes: Based on their class to date, what are Notre Dame's greatest unmet recruiting needs? What can ND do to close strong before signing day?

Brian Bennett: The Irish have had a pretty good week, landing athlete Cam McDaniel from Texas and getting dual-threat quarterback Everett Golson to decommit from North Carolina and pledge to them. Brian Kelly wanted a big-time quarterback, and it will be interesting to see how he uses a guy with Golson's athleticism. I still think Notre Dame needs a big-time running back, after losing Justice Hayes to Michigan, and another top defensive lineman or two after having some defections there. Ishaq Williams and Savon Huggins are two big-time players at those positions still looking toward South Bend.

Ed from Indianapolis writes: Any news on a Mormon mission for Manti Te'o? Not sure what the faith's guidelines are on that in terms of timing, etc. but hoping Manti is back in uniform next year (and the one after that if possible).

Brian Bennett: Ed, Te'o has said he will not go on a mission during his time at Notre Dame. His mission instead appears to be tackling everything in sight.

Matt from South Bend writes: As this season plays out, it appears to me that we may have a quarterback controversy here in South Bend at the beginning of the season. Is this going to be the case or is Dayne going to come back and be the starter in his senior year? Also, what is the likelihood that Mike Floyd returns for his senior year and what impact will that have on Notre Dame if he decides to forgo his senior year?

Brian Bennett: Tommy Rees is 3-0 as the starter and has made a strong case for himself, which will be bolstered if he wins the bowl game. Granted, the offense hasn't put too much on his shoulders in those games, but he still makes quick decisions and gets rid of the ball on time. That's a big plus in this offense. I think we're looking at a competition next year, but at this point we're not even sure if Dayne Crist can be back in time for spring ball. As for Floyd, he has given no indication thus far which way he's leaving. My guess is that he will go, but that's just a hunch. Notre Dame doesn't really have a big, tall wideout with his skills who can step in, but those guys don't come around very often.

Jimmy Touchdowns writes: Why is ND not willing to joining the Big East in football. Are they not mediocre at best? I don't think this generation of upcoming football players/fans ever knew ND to be great. ND may not have benefited from joining the Big East 20 years ago ... but now it would make sense to join...wouldn't it?

Brian Bennett: Sigh. How tiresome is this discussion? Notre Dame wants no part of the Big East for football. Rightly or wrongly, the Irish believe they are defined by their independence and their ability to play a national schedule. The last thing they want is a schedule filled with the likes of Cincinnati, South Florida, Rutgers and Connecticut. You don't have to agree with that thinking, but it's not going to change, so why don't we all just move on with our lives?

Dave from Portland, Ore., writes: Why, for years, has NBC given radio & television coverage to Notre Dame football whether they're winning or not, whether we, the public, want to know anything about them or not? It's not fair to all other teams, especially those that have to play ND, bolstering them up through media hype and the added, consistent source of dollars that are added to ND coffers by a supposedly independent news organization/company with deep pockets. ...

Brian Bennett: Be thankful, dear readers, I spared you the rest of Dave's rant and his conspiracy theories, which included Regis Philbin's nefarious connection. Dave, take a breath. NBC is a private business. It made a business decision that it would be profitable to partner with Notre Dame. At some point, if that partnership is not profitable, it will change. If you don't like it, you don't have to watch. When has college football ever been about fairness?

Notre Dame mailbag

November, 19, 2010
The Irish are the New York Yankees of college football. So it's fitting that they're playing at Yankee Stadium and dressing in the Yankees' locker room this week.

Let's get to some of your questions:

Ryan S. from South Bend, Ind., writes: If the Irish do become bowl eligible, what are their potential bowl bids?

Brian Bennett: This was the No. 1 question in the mailbag this week, and it's kind of impossible to answer. We know this: If Notre Dame wins out and goes 7-5, it will almost certainly go to the Champs Sports Bowl. But it cannot make that game at 6-6 by its contract with the Big East. The Irish can also replace the Big 12 in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, but it looks like that league will have enough bowl eligible teams.

So that means the Irish will have to go shopping for an at-large spot, and with 35 bowls this year, there figure to be quite a few of those available. A good place to look is to the Pac-10 tie-ins. With USC on probation, the Pac-10 probably won't fill all of its spots. Since the NCAA no longer requires bowls to take teams with winning records over 6-6 teams for at-large spots, the Irish would be high on any bowl's priority list. If Stanford joins Oregon in the BCS, that could open up the Sun and/or Las Vegas bowls for an at-large spot. Or maybe the Irish go to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and play a BCS-snubbed Boise State.

Kevin from South Bend, Ind., writes: Why are people so quick to assume Dayne Crist is in danger of losing his job heading into next fall? He will probably miss the Spring, and he has battled consistency and accuracy problems (probably related), but he still put together a decent year and moments like the 95 yard touchdown to Rudolph where he showed what could happen if he puts it together.

Brian Bennett: It goes with the pressure of being the Notre Dame quarterback and how the backup quarterback is always the most popular guy on campus. I still think Crist is the most talented quarterback on the roster, but he does need to show more consistency. And health is a major concern. If he can't go through spring practice, that won't help his development. Brian Kelly hasn't been shy about switching quarterbacks. But so far, Tommy Rees hasn't really shown that he's better than Crist.

Daniel S. from Peoria, Ill., writes: How should Notre Dame do against Army's triple option? And if they do good at Yankee Stadium, then how should they fare out in LA against Southern Cal?

Brian Bennett: The Irish can't really do any worse, can they? Army isn't quite as good as Navy and has played a far, far weaker schedule. So that helps. I also believe it's a major advantage to have seen that offense once before. Look at Duke. The Blue Devils lost to Army in September but came back and beat Navy on Halloween weekend.

Mike N. from Indianapolis writes: In your opinion from the outside looking in, with the talent that Brian Kelly inherited, should the results from this year have been better? Or, are these the wrong kids for his system? I feel with the talent that they were perceived to have, they would be able to adjust to his system. What do you think?

Brian Bennett: I thought this team would go anywhere between 7-5 and 9-3, so they can still reach the low end of that. Realistically, this team should be at least one or two wins better right now. No way they should have lost to Navy and Tulsa. Then again, the one thing everybody agreed would be the worst-case scenario was an injury to Crist. That's what happened in the Michigan and Tulsa losses.

The Irish could have easily beaten the Wolverines, Michigan State and Tulsa if one play goes differently in each. But it didn't, and that's on them. You also can't discount the heavy price the team has paid in injuries to top-line starters this year. Overall, I think the year will rank as a mild disappointment if they finish 6-6 and go to a minor bowl. But Kelly should really be judged by Year 2 and Year 3, once he gets his system fully in place.

Steve from Dubuque, Iowa, writes: How long will it take for Notre Dame to fire Brian Kelly? He has already cost the Irish at least one victory (Tulsa game). Seriously, are other Notre Dame fans and alumni accepting his decision to throw the ball in the end zone on 1st down when we are already in field goal range??? What is going on in his head??

Brian Bennett: Now that's silly. Has Kelly made some mistakes this year? Sure. But calling to fire the head coach before his first year is up, especially when he may very well match the exact same record of the previous two years, is just plain dumb. That's no way to build a program. Will Kelly be the right guy for Notre Dame in the long term? That remains to be seen, but you sure can't throw him out now.

Utah fan from Salt Lake City writes: Utah is going to KILL ND!

Brian Bennett: Be careful what you send in on a Friday unless you're absolutely sure of the outcome on Saturday.

Notre Dame mailbag

November, 5, 2010
As always, you can send your Notre Dame questions here. And this is certainly a program facing a lot of questions right now.

Jim S. from Oneida, N.Y., writes: Please explain to me the rationale to throw a pass into the end zone when you're on the 19-yard line, under a minute, needing a 30-35 yard field goal to win the game? I can't believe the call; aren't coaches smarter than that?

Brian Bennett: Well, you wouldn't expect Brian Kelly to have confidence in a kicker who's merely 18-for-18 in his career, would you? Kelly said after the game that the Irish had a favorable matchup and that he'll always make that call. But it was just plain indefensible. It smacked of the kind of arrogance that Charlie Weis often had. You run it to the middle of the field there and you kick the field goal. Notre Dame needed a victory after the difficult week, and Kelly simply blew it.

Ryan G. from New Jersey writes: As easy as it is to point the finger at Brian Kelly, I think blame needs to be spread around. It starts with Charlie Weis, who has proven he has done a terrible job at recruiting. Blame also lies on Tommy Rees. Kelly said during the postgame interview that he told Rees to throw it away if it wasn't there and he should have thrown it away. Freshman or not, it's QB 101, don't force a throw if it isn't there. Throw it away and live to play another down. We all knew it was going to be a rough year for ND. Crist, Riddick, Rudolph, Allen, Ian Williams, all out for the year. One of the top recruits we had coming in died in another tragedy earlier this year. How often does a blocked extra point and a tipped screen pass get returned for points?

Brian Bennett: I agree that it's been a tough year and there has been a lot of adversity, but a lot of it has been self-inflicted as well. Sorry, I can't blame Rees too much there. He's a true freshman playing in a clutch situation for the first time in college; you don't put him in position to make a mistake like that. If Dayne Crist were in there, maybe you trust him enough to make that call. But it was still pointless.

David from Chicago writes: Brian, why is the death of Declan Sullivan being swept under the rug? I hear or read about no outcry for answers. Only one journalist (Jason Whitlock) is calling for Kelly, who claimed responsibility for having practice outside, to be fired. Even ESPN's own Mike Golic is trying to sweep this story away. Does ND have that much clout that they can kill someone and make it as if no one cared or it is not a big deal? At any other school the head coach would be fired already. The incident shows gross negligence on the part of the ND football program especially Kelly. ND has fired coaches for much much less. What is wrong with you people! A person is dead and no one cares.

Brian Bennett: I would disagree that it's being "swept under the rug" or that no one cares. It was an absolute tragedy and one that was entirely unavoidable. However, I think it's irresponsible to be calling for people to be fired yet until we have more answers. Let the investigation run its course and let's find out who was truly accountable for the decision-making and what policies were or weren't in place. Kelly and others are going to live with this the rest of their lives, as is the Sullivan family. There's no need to rush to point fingers until we have all the information.

Steadman A. from Baltimore writes: Do you believe ND will go to a bowl game despite a lack of quality wins?

Brian Bennett: If the Irish get to at least 6-6, they're going bowling, period. It's getting to 6-6 that is the problem. They should be significant underdogs against Utah and at USC, and at this point, it would be hard to say Notre Dame is definitely going to beat Army.

Rob M. from Orillia, Ontario, writes: Long time Irish fan up here in Canada, north of Toronto. I'm certainly disappointed by the result yesterday and news of the injuries. To make matters worse, I read your blog and now recruits withdrawing their committments. I thought we would have a better record. Am I wrong in relating ND's record to college football overall and Tiger Woods and PGA Golf. What I mean is like Tiger, if he's winning then everyone seems to be into the tour and majors. Can the same be said about the Irish. If they're winning it makes the overall season/rankings that much more interesting.

Brian Bennett: Interesting comparison. College football is in a lot better shape without Notre Dame than the PGA Tour is without Tiger. In fact, the sport has never been more popular despite the Irish's irrelevance on a national stage. But college football would be more fun and interesting if Notre Dame was good. The Irish are like the Yankees -- you love them or you hate them, but you want them involved either way.

Mike P. from Mobile, Ala., writes: I live in Alabama but I'm a Notre Dame fan. I get so sick of hearing how great the SEC is. What is Notre Dame's record against the SEC teams. I know it's 5 wins and 1 loss to alabama.

Brian Bennett: Since you asked, here is the Notre Dame record against the SEC:

Alabama: 5-1

Florida: 1-0

Georgia: 0-1

LSU: 5-5

Mississippi: 1-1

South Carolina: 3-1

Tennessee: 4-4

Vanderbilt: 2-0

Total: 21-13

Notre Dame's last win against an SEC opponent was in 2005 against Tennessee.

Damon D. from Boise, Idaho, writes: Wow, a once storied program can't even beat mid-major teams now. What is the major underlying problem there, is it the fact that they can't recruit the top players because of the school's strict academic standards? They've had good coaches, they have lots of money and they're on national TV every week so what gives?

Brian Bennett: What gives, indeed. If Brian Kelly can't get it done, I'm not sure anyone can.

Notre Dame mailbag

October, 29, 2010
Let's dive right in ...

Richard K. from Eddy, Texas, writes: How was the Irish defense not ready for the 1st option of the attack, the fullback? The coaches acted like the Navy Triple Option caught them off guard.

Brian Bennett: The way Notre Dame explained it was, they were caught off guard by Navy using an unbalanced line for much of the first half. The Midshipmen put two tackles on the same side of the line and pounded away. Oddly, Navy's coaches said it was a look they had used many times previously this season. So how did the Irish miss it and fail to adjust it? That still seems like a bit of a mystery.

Eric P. from Sarnia, Ontario, writes: Why after so many years can't Notre Dame build a defense? Their offense is usually pretty strong but can't seem to gain ground on the D-line or secondary. Is it a weakness in recruiting or more tied in to their coordinator? I know it is not the easiest school to get into but after so many years I can't believe they can't fix what is their most obvious weakness, year after year. As great of a coach as Kelly is it won't matter how many points he scores if we can never stop anybody!

Brian Bennett: True points. Defense wasn't exactly the last head coach's calling card, so it's unrealistic to think Kelly was going to fix things overnight. And with the exception of the Navy game, the Irish defense has improved a lot statistically over last year. It is mainly a matter of recruiting; the NFL hasn't been drooling over Notre Dame defensive players much recently, and while there are some studs like Manti Te'o, the depth is not good enough yet for this to be an elite defense.

Manti T. from South Bend writes: Why is Bob Diaco my defensive coordinator? He was terrible at Cincinnati and had no right to be hired here. I know Kelly wanted to help out his own, but jeez. The scheme for the Navy game was terrible. My teammates and I never stood a chance! I got hung out to dry on just about every play and Ian Williams has lost the rest of his senior season because Diaco let him get doubled teamed and cut blocked all game. Is this guy going to be around next year? I hope not. If so... Is it time for me to take my mission?

Brian Bennett: I'm going to step out on a limb and say that's not really from Manti. It's an interesting question, though. Cincinnati observers wondered at the end of last year if Diaco had blown his shot at following Kelly to Notre Dame because of how awful the Bearcats' defense was down the stretch and in the Sugar Bowl. That was his first year of being a sole defensive coordinator, too. But Kelly brought him along and seems to believe in Diaco, who has a good résumé as an assistant. Again, the defense was playing better before the Navy disaster, and Diaco hasn't exactly had great players on defense the past two years. But the Navy game did him no favors, and if things don't turn around the rest of the season, Diaco could find himself on a hot seat.

Josh from Bluefield, W. Va., writes: Now that Notre Dame has lost to Navy and is going to be underdogs in their remaining games with the exception of Tulsa, what bowl game if any do you see them reaching?

Brian Bennett: Well, I think Notre Dame will also be favored against Army, though if the Irish defend the triple option the way they did against Navy, they'll go 0-2 against the service academies. If they can win those two and split the Utah and USC games, they'll be 7-5 and would go to the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando. If they finish 6-6, it's hard to predict where they'll end up. They will need some bowl games to have empty slots, which should happen this year with so many postseason games on the slate. And from there it's a matter of finding the best game. But if the Irish are available, someone will take them.

Aaron from Norfolk, Va., writes: Is Dayne Crist really the man for the job at ND or is Kelly just trying to buy sometime until he can find someone to bring in?

Brian Bennett: Crist does not inspire confidence when he does things like throw that interception at the end of the half against Navy. He's been very inconsistent this year. But it's also his first year of starting, and he's in a new offensive system. Let's give him time to figure things out, and he'll let everybody know whether he's the man or not.

George A. from Monkton, Md., writes: Hey, listen, this is going to take time and coach Kelly needs to have his recruits and the time to develop the Irish. Time is not on his side and Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate leaving for the NFL didn't help much either. The offense is flat at quarterback, injuries are killing the receiving corps and defensively the Irish are getting manhandled. Look for the Irish to bounce back next year and blossom in 2012.

Brian Bennett: I'll just add that they'd better be blossoming in 2012. Have you seen the schedule that year?

Maurice M. from New York writes: I have just heard of the tragic death of the N.D. student. Who is the IDIOT who had him up there in high winds? That person, the president of the school and the entire coaching staff, should be held responsible for his death. When cranes are shut down in 30 mile an hour winds, no one who has read the operating instructions for using such a lift would allow anyone to operate one in such high winds or wind gusts. I think that an investigation should be held into this immediately with no local people doing it.

Brian Bennett: There is an investigation under way that's being handled by Indiana's OSHA. We haven't gotten a lot of answers yet from Notre Dame, such as what the policies are in those high wind situations, why the team didn't go indoors, who made the decision to have Declan Sullivan (and apparently at least one other student) go up that day, etc. This is a tragedy that demands answers and, for the sake of Sullivan and all who have similar jobs, a thorough investigation in how to prevent future accidents like it.

Notre Dame mailbag

October, 22, 2010
Keep your Notre Dame questions coming. You can send them here.

Nate from Rockville, Md., writes: I have noticed this year that Brian Kelly gets quite upset at his offense. So my question is this, Does he have the talent around the ball on offense left over from the Weis era or is he got some major recruiting to do to get the Irish where he wants them?

Brian Bennett: As a guy who watched Kelly up close at Cincinnati for three years, I can tell you that's nothing new. Kelly is a perfectionist, especially when it comes to his quarterbacks and the offense. That won't change. The Irish have plenty of talent on offense, though Kelly would like to get more offensive linemen who fit his spread system.

Chris C. from Little River S.C., writes: Who do you see as the next quarterback to follow Dayne Crist. Will Kelly utilize a player from the roster or is he eyeing one of his own as a new recruit?

Brian Bennett: Well, Crist has two more years after this one, so that's a long way down the road. I would expect Kelly will try to bring in a quarterback or two, at least, in the next couple of classes. He did mention this week that freshman Andrew Hendrix, who was running the Navy scout team, gets rid of the ball quicker than any quarterback he's ever had. That's a major attribute for Kelly's style, so I'd keep an eye on Hendrix.

John S. from Monclova, Ohio, writes: With ND suffering such a rash of injuries at the WR positions, do you think we might see Deion Walker get some playing time?? He is a guy who came to ND with big fanfare and has totally disappeared. He has the physical look of a talented WR, but he is being passed by freshmen on the depth chart.

Brian Bennett: You're right in that Walker has been passed by. He wasn't mentioned this week as someone who could play a bigger role, and even Robby Toma has surpassed him.

Brad D. from Cartersville, Ga., writes: Is there any chance for Rudolph to be redshirted due to injury?

Brian Bennett: No, Brad. Kyle Rudolph played in six games, which is way too many to qualify for a medical redshirt

Don S. from Sugar Land, Texas, writes: Please explain why ND plays US Navy on foreign soil -- I don't get it. To me a very grandiose act typical of arrogance associated with ND which makes them one of the most hated teams in America.

Brian Bennett: Wow, Don, you seem like kind of a killjoy. The Irish in Ireland? Navy going overseas? That game seems like a whole lot of fun to me and will definitely be a great experience for the players.

Blountco.bob from Warrior, Ala., writes: 1. Will Notre Dame go 7-5 or 6-6 ? 2. If Notre Dame goes 6-6 being a Big East bowl team would they go to the Pinstripe Bowl or could a place say like the Birmingham Bowl get the Irish if Georgia or Tennessee win 6 games?

Brian Bennett: Warrior is one of my all-time favorite city names. Anyway, let's clear up this bowl issue. The only Big East bowl spot that Notre Dame can take is the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando. If the Irish get to at least seven wins, they're a virtual lock for that game. They can only go to the Pinstripe Bowl if the Big 12 doesn't qualify enough teams, in which case the Irish would play a Big East opponent.

I have Notre Dame going 8-4 as I have since the preseason; if the Irish just beat Navy, Tulsa and Army they should make the Champs Sports game. A 6-6 record complicates things and means the Irish would have to scramble for a spot; unlike last year, I think going to a lesser bowl would be worth it this season for the extra practices.

Thomas from St George, Utah writes: Do you really think that Notre Dame stands any sort of a chance against Utah? Utah's preparation and record vs top programs says they dont. I've got Utah by 17.

Brian Bennett: That game is still three weeks away, so making predictions now is silly. But I know this: the Utes are playing TCU the week before, and Notre Dame will have an extra week to prepare before getting Utah at home. Those conditions tell me that the Irish will be ready, and it should be a great game.

Yvonne from Houston writes: My husband stated that Notre Dame football does not have a by week ever. Is this true?

Brian Bennett: Tell your husband he has to do the chores this week. The Irish are off after next weekend's Tulsa game.

Notre Dame mailbag

October, 15, 2010
Welcome to another edition of the Irish mailbag. I doubt too many people are excited or nervous about the Western Michigan game, but there's always plenty to talk about. Keep sending in your questions here.

Cameron H from Erie, Pa., writes: With Kyle Rudolph's injury, will he return to for a senior year because of scouts questioning his durability?

Brian Bennett: It's an interesting question and one could that could go either way. As you say, Rudolph needs to prove he can stay healthy after also missing time last year with a shoulder injury. And if the recovery timetable holds at six months, that means he won't be able to work out for pro teams until April, or right before the draft.

On the other hand, does Rudolph want to risk coming back for his senior year and getting injured again? There aren't many great tight ends in this draft, either, so he may want to go ahead and go. Throw in the NFL lockout talk and it becomes a very complicated decision. If I had to guess, I say he comes back to school.

Jadon O. from Canandaigua, N.Y., writes: Do you think that Rudolph going down could cause Brian Kelly to ask Dayne Crist to throw the ball vertically more down the field to playmakers like Michael Floyd considering Rudolph was a major underneath option?

Brian Bennett: Well, let's not forget that Rudolph could get vertical, too. Just because he was a tight end doesn't mean he couldn't stretch the field. I think if there's any adjustment, it will be that Kelly will use more five-wide receiver sets and feature the tight end less. I don't know how much he really trusts Tyler Eifert and Mike Ragone just yet.

Michael from Lawrence, Kan., writes: What about Crist's accuracy? I've seen him miss on a lot of throws. Stats are stats, but they don't necessarily tell the whole story. It seems that many of the passes that his misses on, he misses by a lot (it's not as though it's in the receiver's hands and the receiver is dropping it). It doesn't seem like this has gotten a lot of attention, but it would seem to me that if some of those throws were a bit more on target, ND might have won a couple of those close games.

Brian Bennett: First, let's get the stats out there. Crist is completing 58.8 percent of his throws which is good but not great in Kelly's system. (By comparison, Tony Pike completed more than 62 percent last year for Kelly at Cincinnati.) He has been burned by some receiver drops, but he also has missed some open throws. I don't know that it's a major issue with his accuracy as much as him still learning the spread offense. The system demands that he make quick decisions and get rid of the ball fast, and when you're trying to do that and thinking too much, sometimes you can't put the ball where you want it.

Joshua F. from Chicago writes: Can you comment on the emergence of Carlo Calabrese this season? I know he is playing alongside the much heralded Manti Te'o, but it seems to me that he can play just as well as him.

Brian Bennett: Calabrese has been one of the real finds of the season, and I don't know if the coaching staff knew what it had in him. He seems to be a guy who plays better when the lights are on, and he's a real hard-nosed, throwback type of player who I can see becoming a fan favorite. That other inside linebacker spot next to Te'o was a preseason question mark, but Calabrese has answered it emphatically.

Ron from Youngstown, Ohio, writes: With a lighter portion of the schedule coming up, what record will Notre Dame end up with?

Brian Bennett: I said 8-4 before the year and am sticking with it. I think the Irish split the Utah and USC games and win all the others. Speaking of which ...

Mike H. from Cincinnati writes: Do you think Utah or USC will be a bigger game for the Irish this year? Utah will be in the top ten, but USC is a big rival and the Irish haven't won in the past eight years.

Brian Bennett: The Utah game will be more difficult because the Utes are really good. But the USC game is bigger. Notre Dame needs to end that losing streak to the Trojans, and this looks like its best shot in a long time. To do that at the end of the season could give the Irish a lot of momentum to build on for 2011, too.

Kathleen M. from Los Angeles writes: Please explain to me why avid, true devoted fans of Notre Dame can not be patient? Why is Notre Dame always thought to be the one team that can take the spotlight away from another team? Why can't Coach Kelly admit that this IS a transition year and be happy with its report? Think about it. New coach, new assistants, new quarterback, etc. 99% of the other colleges would say that this is a transition year. I truly believe that the current two wins over Pitt and Boston College have started the positive thoughts, vibes that is needed to really start this success. I don't believe that they will make a bowl game, however there has been more shocking moments then that with ND football lately.

Brian Bennett: I learned long ago not to try and explain why fans act or think the way they do. Fans are crazy; that's just part of it. And I mean all fans. You can't mention Don Denkinger's name around me or I become completely illogical and upset.

Anyway, I like that Kelly is saying this is not a transition year for two reasons. One, that's not his personality at all. He wants to win right away, and in his first year at Cincinnati he won 10 games. He also knows that Irish fans aren't too big on rebuilding. Secondly, if you announce it's a transition or rebuilding year, then you automatically lower expectations for the players. He's trying to instill a winning attitude.

And I disagree about the Irish not going to a bowl. I think 7-5 is a worst-case scenario at this point, and I believe they're all but locked into the Champs Sports Bowl. Unless Crist gets hurt or something.

Notre Dame mailbag

October, 8, 2010
Welcome back to the Notre Dame mailbag. Keep those questions and comments coming. You can use the link on the right side of this page or simply click here.

Matthew G. from Tampa writes: Do you feel after the ND victory over BC, that ND will start turning the corner and become a Top-25 team?

Brian Bennett: Let's not get too carried away. The Boston College win was nice, but the Eagles don't look like a very good team. The Notre Dame résumé is light, and the schedule coming up doesn't present many opportunities for statement wins. If the Irish can win their next four games and then beat a potential Top-10 Utah at home, they'd be 7-3 and at that point could get back into the rankings.

Mike from Dayton writes: While ND's schedule does lighten up a bit, how do you see them faring against teams such as Navy, Utah, and USC?

Brian Bennett: Navy is always difficult to play, but the Midshipmen are having trouble scoring points this year. I don't think the Irish will lose to them a second year in a row. With USC, who knows what the probation-saddled Trojans state of mind will be at the end of the year. It's a road game, so it will be tough, but USC is very beatable. Utah now looks like the hardest game remaining. That will be a very interesting contest, as both teams run similar styles. But the game is at home and Notre Dame should come into it with some momentum. All three look winnable right now, though a 2-1 record might be more realistic.

Jon M. from Orlando writes: NT Ian Williams is having a good year for the Irish. He has good mobility, strength, and quickness for his size which should pose well for him in the NFL. So, what qualities do you see in him; how does he compare to other NT's entering the draft; and what round do you project he will be selected? Thanks.

Brian Bennett: I mostly leave the draft stuff to the guys who follow that for a living. I can tell you that Mel Kiper currently doesn't have Williams on his list of top-five defensive tackles. But Williams is definitely rising and is having a terrific year. A lot of it is due to conditioning; he's in much better shape this year and can stay on the field longer while performing at a high level. And he's a much better fit as the nose tackle in a 3-4 than he was in last year's scheme. Williams is one of the most improved players on the team, for sure.

Marc from Dallas writes: Even though I probably already know the answer I have to ask! What are the chances Kyle Rudolph and Michael Floyd stick around for next year? I think it is going to take Dayne Crist this entire season to get his feet wet and get used to Coach Kelly's system. Next year could be a great one if they come back.

Brian Bennett: Both guys will have to weigh the potential impact of a possible NFL lockout and changes to the rookie salary scale. I think Floyd could use another year, honestly, to polish off his route running skills, and I could envision him having a monster senior campaign. Rudolph seems to me to be more NFL ready of the two. But I would think both would be high picks, and it will be awfully hard for them to turn that opportunity down.

Sam from Cape Coral, Fla., writes: I believe that Brian Kelly will get us back to winning consistently, but can he get us back to National Championship contenders and what would it take for us to achieve this goal?

Brian Bennett: I personally don't think we'll ever return to the days where Notre Dame is an annual national title contender. What I think the Irish should shoot for is being in the mix for at-large BCS bids just about every year, and then every few years when the stars align contend for the whole thing. The schedule is always going to present obstacles, and the Irish just about have to go undefeated to have a chance at it. What it's going to take is great recruiting, especially in the trenches, a team of veteran stars used to Kelly's system and a little bit of luck.

Notre Dame mailbag

October, 1, 2010
Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Notre Dame mailbag. I envision this becoming a weekly staple, and maybe even more frequent if the questions warrant. You can submit your questions on the link to the right, or by clicking right here.

Away we go ...

Kevin G. from Griffin, Ga., writes: I know that an undefeated season was only something I could wish for in Brian Kelly's (or any coaches) first year, but can you give me any ammunition to defend myself from the endless number of ND haters about this season? 1-3 is a hard place to be.

Brian Bennett: It is a difficult place to be, but I don't think things are necessarily as bad as the record looks. Let's face it: The schedule has been difficult and probably harder than we expected. Stanford is really good. Michigan is much improved. And of course, the Irish were a play away from winning against the Wolverines and Michigan State (an all-too-familiar refrain, I know).

I do see gradual improvement and better coaching in a lot of areas. For some optimism, read this article Insider from Football Outsiders. You need Insider access for it, but one key line is this: "ND's four opponents have played four games apiece now; three of those teams (the Purdue Boilermakers, Michigan and Michigan State) produced their worst per-play output of the season against the Irish."

C.J. from Boston writes: Is Brian Kelly on the hot seat yet after the loss to Stanford? If not, will he be on the hot seat if he doesn't crush BC?

BB: I suppose every Notre Dame coach is on the hot seat to some extent. But if you're suggesting that Kelly is actually in danger of being fired, that's not going to happen. Jack Swarbrick is not going to do anything that rash. Recruiting is going well, and except for the Stanford game, the team has played well enough to win. A little patience is required.

Kevvy L. from Chicago writes: No one knows what will happen this or next year, but do you see anything stopping Kelly from having the Irish expecting 10-win seasons and usually in the national championship hunt by 2012? His ability to recruit appears to be on point and will get better with more wins. People have said you can't win using a spread because it puts too much pressure on the defense. But no one says the same about teams that score quickly out of a pro set. What do YOU think?

BB: Well, first of all, I think any notion that you can't win with the spread is ridiculous. What about Florida, Texas, Boise State, Oregon ... I could go on and on and on. I still believe Kelly will get this program rolling. If I'm an Irish fan, I would be encouraged by the recent success of recruiting defensive linemen, long a problem for the program. And remember Notre Dame is playing this year without players designed for the spread, particularly on the offensive line. I think Kelly can annually have this team in the BCS hunt, but the schedule will always make things difficult.

Tom M. from Brookfield, Wisc., writes: Can Brian Kelly get the Irish to play better this week? In other words, can he get Dayne Crist playing better? I didn't see much from Crist this last weekend as far as down field passing. There was a lot of sideline passes. Is Kelly scared of Crist's accuracy? We have some of the best receivers in the country. I would like to see more effort throwing the ball down field. What do you think?

BB: I think we're watching the process of a young quarterback develop in his first year of starting and in a new offense. Stanford dropped eight men into coverage frequently on Saturday, limiting the downfield throws. It was the first time Crist really saw that look, and he didn't always make the right decisions. I expect Boston College to play a more traditional style, and the Irish may have to loosen the Eagles No. 6-ranked rush defense up with some deep shots.

Rod S. from Hesperia, Calif., writes: Will Notre Dame wear their green jerseys this year?

BB: Kelly has said the Irish will likely wear them against Army in Yankee Stadium as a nod to the Subway Alumni. But he said he likes to keep the traditional uniforms for home games.

Cutter from Alexandria, Va., writes: I just graduated and my four years at Notre Dame were officially the worst (record) in ND history.... I have paid my dues.... Please tell me what I have to look forward to.

BB: I feel for you, Cutter. Grad school?