Notre Dame has finished in the top five in two of the last three seasons and is coming off a 10-2 record and a No. 5 finish in the 2020 season. Despite that success, there are plenty of questions surrounding the Irish, and not many project the Irish to again be title contenders in 2021.
Sports Illustrated college football writer Pat Forde ranked Notre Dame 10th in the first set of preseason ranks for the 2021 season.
"Brian Kelly is right when he says his program has elevated to the point of consistent playoff contention—it’s being competitive once the Fighting Irish get there that has been the problem. For the first time in what seems like a decade, Notre Dame will have a new starting quarterback in 2021; Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan is an interesting addition, though not necessarily a next-level talent. The offense will feature breakout running back Kyren Williams and blooming monster tight end Michael Mayer. The defense has star safety Kyle Hamilton to build around, with new coordinator Freeman arriving as a big hire."
Four of Notre Dame's 2021 opponents also cracked Forde's Top 25. Cincinnati ranked No. 6, North Carolina ranked No. 11, USC ranked No. 13 and Wisconsin ranked No. 21. Iowa State (No. 7) and Iowa (No. 8) also ranked ahead of Notre Dame.
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