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Notre Dame preview: Defense will be key to returning to BCS bowl

Tommy ReesAndrew Hendrix

Tommy Rees,Andrew Hendrix

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• Saturday vs. Temple (W)

Owls will be overwhelmed

• Sept. 7 at Michigan (L)

Give slight edge to home team in tossup

• Sept. 14 at Purdue (W)

Welcome to the series, Darrell Hazell

• Sept. 21 vs. Mich. State (W)

Two top-notch defenses will lead to squeaker

• Sept. 28 vs. Oklahoma (W)

Irish spoil Sooners’ first trip to South Bend since 1999

• Oct. 5 vs. Arizona State (W)

Irish feel at home in Jerry’s house in Arlington, Texas

• Oct. 19 vs. USC (W)

Irish shine under Notre Dame Stadium lights

• Oct. 26 at Air Force (W)

Offense takes flight against young defense

• Nov. 2 vs. Navy (W)

Triple-option attack gets shut down

• Nov. 9 at Pittsburgh (W)

Won’t need overtime this season

• Nov. 23 vs. BYU (W)

Spirit, honor, tradition not enough for Cougars

• Nov. 30 at Stanford (L)

Cardinal avenges loss in 2012 thriller

Updated: September 27, 2013 6:27AM



Some losses, such as linebacker Manti Te’o and tight end Tyler Eifert, were expected for Notre Dame. Others, such as quarterback Everett Golson, came as a surprise.

But enough talent returns for the Irish to remain in the hunt for a BCS bowl game. The season begins Saturday against Temple.

The first step, according to coach Brian Kelly, is to forget about past accomplishments.

‘‘You don’t just begin this climb at the top of the mountain,’’ he said last week. ‘‘We have to start all over again. That has been the consistent theme since January in talking about how we get back up there. If we go back and we start relying on what we did in the past . . . we’re going to be an 8-5 team.’’

Notre Dame again will lean heavily on its defense. Seven starters are back from a unit that finished second nationally in scoring defense (12.8 points per game).

‘‘We have an expectation that the defense is going to improve because the players improve and the coaches improve,’’ defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said. ‘‘So the people in the organization improve in all aspects that we’re working on and talking about. When you get that done, the overall unit should improve.’’

Offensively, there are plenty of questions. Who will emerge as the go-to running back? Can the team replace Eifert’s production? Most important, what will be the effect of Golson’s absence? Tommy Rees (below) regains the role of starting quarterback.

‘‘I feel like there are a lot of things I can do out on the football field to help this team win,’’ Rees said. ‘‘Whatever is asked, I’ll go out there and execute.’’

5 players to watch

<< DE Stephon Tuitt: Has a knack for getting into the backfield, as his 12 sacks last season demonstrated.

• NG Louis Nix III: Disruptive force in the middle made six preseason watch lists.

• QB Tommy Rees: Veteran was a key contributor as a backup last season.

• LB Prince Shembo: Finished second on the team in sacks (71⁄2) and tackles for loss (101⁄2) in 2012.

• WR TJ Jones: Will be focal point of the passing game after making 50 receptions for 649 yards last season.

Stats corner

16 Notre Dame allowed only 16 touchdowns last season, four fewer than any other Football Bowl Subdivision school.

2 The Irish finished second nationally in scoring defense (12.8 points per game) last season.

Trends

• The last team to lose in the BCS title game one season and appear in it again the next season was Ohio State in 2008.

• OL Zack Martin is the 18th two-time captain for the Irish and the first since Maurice Crum Jr. in 2007-08.

• Saturday vs. Temple (W)

Owls will be overwhelmed

• Sept. 7 at Michigan (L)

Give slight edge to home team in tossup

• Sept. 14 at Purdue (W)

Welcome to the series, Darrell Hazell

• Sept. 21 vs. Mich. State (W)

Two top-notch defenses will lead to squeaker

• Sept. 28 vs. Oklahoma (W)

Irish spoil Sooners’ first trip to South Bend since 1999

• Oct. 5 vs. Arizona State (W)

Irish feel at home in Jerry’s house in Arlington, Texas

• Oct. 19 vs. USC (W)

Irish shine under Notre Dame Stadium lights

• Oct. 26 at Air Force (W)

Offense takes flight against young defense

• Nov. 2 vs. Navy (W)

Triple-option attack gets shut down

• Nov. 9 at Pittsburgh (W)

Won’t need overtime this season

• Nov. 23 vs. BYU (W)

Spirit, honor, tradition not enough for Cougars

• Nov. 30 at Stanford (L)

Cardinal avenges loss in 2012 thriller



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