Heading into the 2013 season the Fighting Irish had hopes of repeating their dream season of 2012 with nearly the same results.
Hopes and dreams are all that are left at this point.
The Irish started the 2013 with a wide variety of on and off the field issues from defections, incoming freshman transfers and injuries.
This list would paralyze many teams, and producing a .500 season would be a task most would fall short of:
Everett Golson- starting quarterback suspended from team pre 2013 season start
Danny Spond- starting linebacker,replacing Teo, lost for his career with concussion issues
Jarrett Grace- starting linebacker, season ending injury versus Arizona State
Tony Springman- 2 deep defensive end, lost for season with injury early in 2013
Ben Councell- 2 deep linebacker, season ending injury mid season
Doug Randolph-incoming linebacker,projected to go 2 deep, season ending injury in spring
Eddie Vanderdoes-5 star DT recruit, projected starter, backed out of letter of intent
The list goes on for the Irish.
On the year, Notre Dame has come close to matching their defensive totals from 2012- except in one area: points allowed.
In 2012 the Irish gave up just 13 points per game.
In 2013 the number has ballooned to 24 points per game allowed.
Imagine any college team coming out for the opening kickoff only to see the score reflect 24 points already registered for the other team on the scoreboard.
Now-try overcoming that with a backup quarterback and a variety of injuries to key defensive players.
7-3 is what you have, with a horrible loss to Pittsburgh based solely on poor passes from your second string quarterback.
Not bad, but without a doubt short of incoming season hopes.
All season the Irish have played short of their abilties. Close games against Navy and Purdue but big wins versus top 25 teams Arizona State and Michigan State simply can't define the team and this Saturday questions will still remain heading into their final game against Stanford next week.
Who is the go-to runningback? Tarean Folston? George Atkinson?
Who is the next defensive tackle for 2014 when Louis Nix departs? Sheldon Day? Jarron Jones?
Here's what to look for this Saturday:
Brigham Young is a solid football team on both sides of the ball.
59th in passing and 12th in rushing on the season equates to a balanced attack.
Quarterback Taysom Hill has had a solid season passing and running the ball. Against Texas early in 2013 Hill rushed for 3 touchdowns and amassed 259 yards rushing. Exploiting the Irish middle will be the objective and as seen with Air Force and Navy, a dual type quarterback presents problems for Notre Dame.
On defense, BYU has limited some top caliber teams like Texas, Wisconsin and Boise State. The high octane offense of the Houston Cougars presented BYU with its only test where scoring and moving the ball was concerned. In that game Houston scored 46 in a losing effort.
For the Irish, its Senior Day.
And it's undetermined when Louis "Irish Chocolate" Nix runs out of the tunnel when his name is called Saturday, if Irish fans will hear it called in 2014.
Nix has yet to nail down his decision after 2013- as well as Stephon Tuitt- where the NFL is concerned.
Both are projected top 15 picks in the 2014 NFL draft.
And should both declare for the draft after this season, Notre Dame will have some major gaps to fill in 2014.
No doubt when Nix's name is called it will bring about the most emotion. Nix has become a Paul Bunyan type figure in South Bend-and not just in stature.
His Youtube videos, big smile, giddy nature and stellar play on the field will remain ingrained in the minds and hearts of fans of Notre Dame for some time. He has been the cornerstone of the Irish defense and his play afforded Notre Dame the season it had in 2012. It would be fitting if the game was secure for the Irish, for coach Kelly to inject Big Lou on a goal line 'Refrigerator' type play. In the spring game earlier this year, Nix lined up at quarterback for a 2 point conversion he executed in Cam Newton like fashion.
The real running game for Notre Dame will again take center stage-maybe.
Early in 2013, projected starter Amir Carlisle laid the ball on the turf against Purdue and was relegated to mop up type duties.
After a huge game against Navy- Tarean Folston saw limited action in the loss to Pittssburgh.
All this behind a host of 5 star potential All American offensive linemen.
Instead, coach Brian Kelly seems bent on Tommy Rees leading the way, rain or shine-fumbles or no fumbles, late picks in the red zone or no picks. Whatever the score? Tommy. Whatever the down? Tommy. Interceptions? Tommy.
In his first glaring loss of his coaching career at Notre Dame, Kelly opted for the patented "Rees Fade" to Michael Floyd for the game winner against Tulsa.
Problem was- Rees threw a jump ball made for a 5'10" corner instead of 6'3" all world receiver.
This will also be the last game for Rees and it's likely he will become the first quarterback in Notre Dame history to be booed on Senior Day.
Confusion will set in as cheers will also be heard- perhaps for his final exit.
Whatever drama unfolds for the Irish, it will be key for the offense to play with a lead. Last week was evident with what Rees brings-or gives away- when it comes to game ending heroics. In manageable scenerios, Rees can overcome some obstacles. And he has pulled some rabbits incuding a few last year in relief of Golson. But to many times to the well proves to be an achilles of sort for Tommy and the Irish.
Senior wide receiver TJ Jones could have a great day if Notre Dame cannot establish the run or a lead. Seeking to amp his draft status as well, Jones of late has been the only constant in the Irish offense. This could be the game Kelly finally relents and unleashes Atkinson and Folston. The combination of both power backs could prove to be a factor for the Irish.
Of course- all this changes should the weather forecast hold for Saturday.
The outlook is a high temperature of 35 degrees, 18 mile an hour winds and a 40-50 percent chance of snow.
This ironically plays to Tommy Rees's strengths. Control style football. Not alot of passing needed.
Rees will shoulder a big load Saturday for Notre Dame, not only for his final game as an Irish quarterback but as the general leading a regiment of other seniors-like Nix.
Those 2 careers have had opposite results but equally have shared in responsibilty where wins and losses are concerned for Notre Dame.
Nix has basked in the glory of the return for Notre Dame in 2012. All the credit for their run last year fell squarely at the feet of the defense led by Nix and all they accomplished.
For Rees- he has been blamed as the reason for the OU loss and now the Pittsburgh loss in 2013.
With a win Saturday-one will end a stellar career as an Irish football player. The others place in Notre Dame history will be argued for years.
For both-a good performance will be needed as they play their final home game for Notre Dame in order to secure a final victory in South Bend.