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Irish Blogger Gathering: Dublin Edition

Aug 30, 2012, 8:47 PM EDT

The 2012 college football season is officially upon us, and the Fighting Irish hit the field in a little more than 36 hours.

Throughout the year, I’ll be participating in the Irish Blogger Gathering, a tradition started a few seasons ago by some of the other writers in the Notre Dame blogosphere.

In addition to our Strong and True blog, this year’s IBG participants include:
The Subway Domer
Her Loyal Sons
Keith Arnold – NBC’s Inside the Irish blogger.

Each week, we’ll rotate asking and answering three questions regarding Notre Dame football. This week, Twibby from HLS asked me three great questions about the 2012 Irish (which I really enjoyed answering). You can find those responses in a post on the HLS blog.

I sent my questions to Keith, a 2002 Notre Dame graduate (@KeithArnoldNBC). Check them out (in bold), along with Keith’s answers below.

Starting a first-year quarterback (and true freshman cornerback), playing without its 1,000-yard rusher, defending Navy’s option attack. The list goes on . . . and not to mention, traveling 3,600+ miles, adjusting to a five-hour time difference, playing at 9 am ET and beginning the season away from home for the first time since 2006. It seems there are a lot of challenges facing the Irish as they prepare for the first game of the 2012 season. Which is the most difficult and how do you see Notre Dame responding on a less-than-typical opening Saturday?

None of those factors matter to me but Everett Golson. How he handles the bright lights and the big stage is the million dollar question and a season-defining one as well. You should respect every opponent, prepare for time zones, early start times, and missing running backs, but football is football. I’m jacked up and ready for the game. If this team isn’t, I give up.

This would be different if the Irish were opening up with a different opponent. But Navy should have Notre Dame’s respect now and if the Irish merely handle their business and play smart football, they’ll return to South Bend after a fairly easy victory.

One of the big questions heading into the 2012 season relates to how Notre Dame can replace a first round draft pick like Michael Floyd. In his press conference on Tuesday, head coach Brian Kelly said, “You’re going to need your media guide, as it relates to the wide receiver position, because they’re all playing.” From veterans Robby Toma and John Goodman to first-year players Davaris Daniels and Davonte’ Neal, there are several wide receivers (as well as tight ends and running backs) who could combine to fill the void left from Floyd’s departure. Which of these players will have the biggest breakout year? With all these weapons, do you foresee a situation where 8-10 different athletes end up with at least one reception in a single game (much like what often happens in Green Bay)?

I’m on the fence with this one, but I’ve got to believe it’s going to be Davaris Daniels or Davonte Neal. Every fall I expect John Goodman to have a breakout season, and every fall I end up seeing his touchdown catch in San Antonio as his lone gamebreaking play. Daniels is an interesting case as well. While strategically it made a ton of sense to save a year of eligibility, you can’t help but think that if he was that electric of an option, he’d have seen the field as a freshman. I’m very excited to see Neal play football. That Kelly trusts him to return punts from the start of the season after being scared to do anything but have Goodman fair catch kicks says a lot about the youngster. Watching his highlights from high school, you get the feeling that he’s going to be able to touch the football and effect the game in a lot of different ways. (That’s usually a good thing.)

I’ll keep this one short… 12 weeks from now, you’re sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner. The Irish have nearly completed the toughest schedule in the country, but still have one game left to play. Where do they stand, as they get ready to head to the L.A. Coliseum?

I try not to predict wins or losses. There are a ton of variables in play this year and with all those question marks the season could go in about a dozen different ways. But I’m always an optimist. Sometimes blindly. For this season to be a success, Notre Dame should be in Los Angeles playing a nationally relevant game, not just a game where the Irish help another USC quarterback cement their Heisman Trophy status. If they’re still in the BCS conversation, then I call it a success.

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