Yes, but because of a painfully easy schedule. Let’s take a look at the Irish schedule, which I've broken out into Wins, Winnable, Losable and Losses:
- Scheduled wins: Nevada, Navy, Washington, Washington State
- Winnable: Michigan State, Connecticut, at Stanford, at Pittsburgh
- Losable: at Michigan (1-4 in their last five in Ann Arbor), at Purdue (Irish 2-4 at West Lafayette since Holtz retired), Boston College (0-6 since 2001),
- Losses you can count on: Southern California
The Irish are taking some heat in some media outposts for their easy schedule. However, let’s face it, it’s not the Irish’s fault that Michigan is at an unprecedented valley in their football history, or that Washington and Washington State are also at unusually low lows. Charlie Weis did not transform into Bill Snyder.
To heck with history though, let’s just be realistic. Nevada’s probably the team most likely to win a conference championship of the Irish foes, and they have to go through Boise State to do that. Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State trail Ohio State, Illinois and Penn State in the Big 10, and perhaps Iowa as well. Washington and Washington State will be the bottom dwellers of the Pac 10. Stanford is in the middle third of the Pac 10 at best. Connecticut will be a middle of the road Big East team. Pittsburgh is a contender for the Big East title. BC will be a contender for the ACC title. Navy’s beaten Notre Dame once since Roger Stauback left the academy.
Let’s presume my breakdown is correct. The Irish have 4 lock wins and a lock loss against the Trojans. Let’s presume they go 3-1 in the winnable games. To get to 10-2 in the regular season, they’ve got to go 3-0 through Michigan, Purdue and BC? I don’t think that’s likely. Alternatively, they’ve probably got a better shot of going 4-0 through MSU, UConn, Stanford and Pitt.A 10-2 record will likely get the traditionally overrated Irish in a BCS bowl game, where they will get pasted by someone. Alternatively, a 9-3 regular season record will get them to a middle tier bowl game, where they have a much better chance of winning.
Either way, I think they end up 10-3. For more coverage of the Irish, check out http://www.onefootdown.com/.