At the end of the 2012 regular season, Notre Dame was headed to play Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. In Brian Kelly's third year, the Irish fan-base were celebrating their team's return to college Football elite. After all, they had just completed the season and were a perfect 12-0.

Alabama won that title game, 42-14 and the score could have been worse. Though that game didn't say nearly as much about Alabama -- who was very, very good -- as it did the Irish. Brian Kelly and staff did an incredible job that year. A combination of a nasty good defense and some fortunate bounces of the ball got the Irish to the championship game in 2012.

The next time they get there, they will be a much deeper, much stronger team.

Is 2016 the year?

Sept. 4 - at Texas -Charlie Strong is slowly rebuilding the Longhorns back to where they were in Mack Brown's heyday. Next year they should be a real player--if he is still there next year. Prediction - Irish 31 - Texas 23

Sept. 10 - Nevada - The Wolf Pack returns 15 starters from last season's Arizona Bowl Champion team. Fourth year head coach Brian Polian is doing a good job with his first head coaching assignment.Prediction - Irish 38 - Nevada 24

Sept. 17 - Michigan State -The Spartans enter the game off a bye. Big Ten Champs and a playoff team last year, Mark Dantonio has done an excellent job with this program.

In addition he is great at playing the underdog role, which likely will be the case on Sept. 17. Prediction - Irish 20 - Spartans 17

Sept. 24 - Duke -David Cutcliffe has been the best coach at Duke since Steve Spurrier won an ACC title there in 1989. Coach Cut doesn't get the talent of most other schools because Duke has higher academic requirements.

However, for the talent he has, his teams are remarkably competitive. When you play Duke, don't let them hang around or you may get beat.Prediction - Irish 34 - Duke 17

Oct. 1 - Syracuse(at East Rutherford, N.J.) - It will be interesting to see what kind of talent new head coach Dino Babers has to work with. The Orange haven't been winning in a while.

However, they played several good teams reasonably close in 2015 and return 16 starters from that team--for what it's worth. Prediction - Irish 38 - Orange 24

Oct. 8 - at NC State -Returning 15 starters from last season's bowl team. The Wolfpack are decent but not big time yet.Prediction - Irish 28- Wolfpack 17

Oct. 15 - Stanford - The visiting team in this series has lost the last five in a row. Both teams are legitimate national title contenders, so expect this one could go either way. That said, the five points the Irish get for home advantage puts them over in this game. Prediction - Irish 23 - Stanford 21

Oct. 29 - Miami -New Miami head coach, Mark Richt will get the most out of the talented Hurricanes.

Prediction - Miami 28 - Irish 24

Nov. 5 - Navy (at Jacksonville) -The Midshipmen finished the season an amazing 11-2 last year. They only return one starter from the offense and seven defensively.Prediction - Irish 34 - Navy 20

Nov. 12 - Army(at San Antonio) - Sixcoaching staffs and one winning season since the turn of the century--not too good! Jeff Monken enters his third year here. He was formerly at Georgia Southern, where his average season was 9-4. This may be the year the Black Knights earn their second winning season of the century.Prediction - Irish 35 - Army 21

Nov. 19 - Virginia Tech - New Hokies coach Justin Fuente did a great job at Memphis. Taking a program that had hit rock bottom and making it a ten game winner in his third year.

Prediction - Irish 27 - Hokies 20

Nov. 26 - at USC -The Trojans are always one of the most talented teams in the country. Can new head coach Clay Helton mold a champion here?Prediction - USC 28 - Irish 24

Obviously, a play here or there and this 10-2 prediction could turn into 12-0 or 8-4. This Notre Dame team is right on the cusp of being a playoff member. Get to the playoffs and who knows?