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ND Receiving Some Positive Previews

Notre Dame has finished out of the top 25 five straight seasons. A sixth in 2012 would break the school record of five set under head coach Joe Kuharich and interim coach Hugh Devore from 1959-63, prior to the Resurrection campaign under Ara Parseghian.

Tight end Tyler Eifert joins linebacker Manti Te'o as a virtually automatic All-America selection in 2012.

Nevertheless, the 32-31 Irish record over the past five seasons — with a minimum of five defeats each time — has not deterred most of the pre-season college football magazines from believing that the top-25 drought will cease in 2012.

Here are four that have hit the newsstands, with the Sporting News still not yet released.

Athlon Sports
Last year Athlon and Phil Steele each had Notre Dame No. 6 in the pre-season, the highest in five years. This season…
2012 Ranking: No. 20
Bowl Game: Pinstripe vs. Rutgers (date to be announced) in New York City. This generally pits the No. 4 Big East versus the No. 7 Big 12.
Irish Opponent Rankings: USC (1), Oklahoma (5), Michigan (7), Michigan State (18), Stanford (21), BYU (39), Pitt (45), Miami (48), Purdue (52), Wake Forest (57), Navy (65), and Boston College (86), among 124 teams.
Position Rankings: Tight end Tyler Eifert and inside linebacker Manti Te’o both are preseason first-team All-Americans.
Notre Dame’s offensive line and linebackers (inside and outside) are ranked 9th in the country among the top 10 for each unit.
Incoming Recruits: QB Gunner Kiel is ranked 24th among the top 100, and receiver Davonte Neal 56th. Overall, Notre Dame’s class is 17th.
Miscellaneous Notes: Among the 28 new head coaches in the college game, 2010-11 Irish offensive coordinator Charley Molnar (Massachusetts) is 19th, 2005-09 head coach Charlie Weis (Kansas) 22nd and 1997-2001 head coach Bob Davie (New Mexico) is 27th, ahead of only Carl Pellini of Florida Atlantic, and just behind Norm Chow (Hawaii) … Among the top 10 quarterback battles, Notre Dame’s is third, behind Oregon and Florida, with Tommy Rees the predicted winner.
Summary: ”Although this isn’t necessarily a crossroads season for Kelly since Notre Dame seems committed to his renovation project, the 2012 campaign will go a long way toward determining how good the Irish can be in 2013-14.”

2012 Ranking:
No. 33
Irish Opponent Rankings: USC (2), Oklahoma (4), Michigan (7), Michigan State (12), Stanford (21st), BYU (39th), Purdue (42nd), Pitt (44th), Miami (49th), Wake Forest (54th), Boston College (71st), and Navy (80th)
Position Rankings: Among the 50 Best Players for the NFL, Te’o is 9th and Eifert 31s, and both were first-team All-Americans … Cierre Wood is ranked 16th among 25 running backs, and Braxston Cave the No. 8 center.
Notre Dame does not appear amongst any of the top 10 position groups.
Incoming Recruits: The freshman class is ranked 20th, with Kiel the No. 2 quarterback and 20th overall prospect overall among the top 100.
Miscellaneous Notes: In the “5 Best College Football Movies Roles”, Rudy Ruettiger is No. 2 and George Gipp (Ronald Reagan in Knute Rockne All-American is No. 1 … In “Five Best Quarterback Battles,” Notre Dame is behind only Oregon … Among the top 12 non-conference games, No. 2 is Notre Dame at Oklahoma ((Oct. 27), No. 3 is Michigan at Notre Dame (Sept. 22), No. 7 Notre Dame at USC (Nov. 24) and No. 12 Navy and Notre Dame at Ireland (Sept. 1).
Summary: ”Kelly says eight-win seasons are not the standard that is set at Notre Dame, but the Irish would do well to match that number this season.”

Phil Steele
2012 Ranking:
No. 21
Bowl Game: Dec. 27 Belk Bowl vs. Georgia Tech in Charlotte, N.C., formerly known as the Meineke Car Care Bowl the past six years.
Irish Opponent Rankings: Oklahoma (2), USC (4), Stanford (18), Michigan State (19), Michigan (22), BYU (35). Only the Top 40 teams are ranked. Oklahoma is slated to meet Florida State for the national title.
Position Rankings: Par for the course, Eifert and Te’o are first-team All-Americans at tight end and inside linebacker, respectively. Te’o is No. 8 among the NFL Draft eligible players for 2013, and Eifert 25th.
Among 60 quarterbacks, Tommy Rees is 55th, while Cierre Wood is 15th among 60 running backs, TJ Jones 45th among 70 wide receivers, Braxston Cave the 8th center among 40, Chris Watt the No. 23 guard among 60 and Zack Martin the 18th offensive tackle among 60.
On defense, Kapron Lewis-Moore is the 21st defensive end among 60, Louis Nix III the 46th tackle among 60 and Prince Shembo the 48th linebacker among 70.
The secondary features Jamoris Slaughter the 15th strong safety out of 45, Zeke Motta the 36th free safety among 40, and Bennett Jackson the 34th cornerback among 70.
Collectively, the Irish are 37th at quarterback, 17th at running back, 16th at receiver/tight end, 11th along the offensive line, 22nd in the defensive line, 8th at linebacker (inside and outside), not among the 39 defensive backfields that were ranked, and 28th in special teams.
Miscellaneous Notes: Andrew Hendrix is listed as the starting quarterback ... The incoming freshman class received the highest rating among all the publications, No. 9. Among the top 500 freshmen rated on offense and defense, Kiel was the No. 1 quarterback, Kelvarae Russell and Will Mahone the 18th and 23rd running backs, Davonte Neal and Justin Ferguson the 8th and 43rd receivers, and Ronnie Stanley the 20th offensive lineman, with Mark Harrell 61st.
On defense, Jarron Jones is the 20th lineman and Sheldon Day not far behind at 23. Safety Elijah Shumate is the No. 15 defensive back, and safety C.J. Prosise No. 56.
Summary: “Expectations are low for ND but they do enter Brian Kelly’s third year, which is [when] a seasoned head coach usually shows the most improvement.”

USA Today
This is the first season we know of this publication coming out in magazine form.
2012 Ranking: No. 19
Irish Opponent Rankings: A Top 25 was listed, and it included USC (2), Oklahoma (5), Michigan (9), Michigan State (20th) and Stanford (21st)
Position Rankings: Only a first-team All-America unit was printed, with Eifert and Te’o again on the team.
Miscellaneous Notes: The publication includes a feature by’s Dan Murphy on Notre Dame in a Point-Counterpoint regarding whether Notre Dame should stay independent in football or join a conference.
Summary: “Best-case scenario: They finish with a 10-2 record and return to a BCS bowl for the first time since 2006. Worst-case scenario: The starting quarterback is unstable … get bogged down by a demanding schedule … things get ugly and the Irish finish 5-7 and miss a bowl game.”

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