Notre Dame running back George Atkinson III heads to the end zone with a touchdown during an NCAA college football game against Navy, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
Updated: July 31, 2014 9:48PM
The coaches’ poll has lost a lot of prestige since it no longer is a component in setting up the matchup for the national-title game.
But the arrival Thursday of the preseason poll is another sign that games are right around the corner. For a second consecutive season, Notre Dame will begin in the top 20. The Irish landed at No. 17 in the preseason poll.
Notre Dame is coming off a disappointing 9-4 campaign that was filled with inconsistent play and injuries. And one without quarterback Everett Golson, who missed the 2013 season while serving a suspension tied to academics.
Golson returned in the spring and made three preseason national award watch lists in July. Now all he has to do is officially be named the starting quarterback. Golson spent the spring locked in a competition with Malik Zaire.
Defensive end Stephon Tuitt, nose guard Louis Nix III, cornerback Bennett Jackson and linebackers Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese are among the 2013 starters new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder will have to replace. VanGorder still has one of the best young linebackers in the country, sophomore Jaylon Smith, as an anchor. Cornerback KeiVarae Russell had a standout performance in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Notre Dame’s aim is for a bowl game closer to New Year’s Day. The Irish will have to navigate a schedule that features five teams in the preseason poll. Florida State, the final BCS champion, is ranked No. 1. Notre Dame travels to Tallahassee on Oct. 18. Notre Dame plays No. 11 Stanford (Oct. 4) and No. 23 North Carolina (Oct. 11) at home. The Irish travel to No. 18 Arizona State (Nov. 8) and No. 15 USC (Nov. 29).