More from the Crystal Ball

Predictions 8-10 examine the team's quarterbacks, a record-breaking tight end, and its W-L ledger after nine contests.

Our first three predictions examined expected pass defense struggles, touchdowns scored by Cierre Wood, and the possibility of a 4-0 start in September, while predictions No. 4-7 detailed likely home defeat for the 14th straight season, a new interception king, a noticeable surge in rushing attempts for 2012, and fewer interceptions thrown by the Irish quarterbacks.

The trio below rounds out our first 10 with more than two handfuls yet to come:

Prediction #8 - Three-Headed Monster

In 2010, three quarterbacks took meaningful snaps for the Irish: Dayne Crist, Tommy Rees, and former walk-on Nate Montana. 2011 saw the same scenario unfold (Crist, Rees, Andrew Hendrix). In 2009, Brian Kelly's Cincinnati Bearcats were led by two quarterbacks: Tony Pike and Zach Collaros. In 2008 a whopping four: Pike, Collaros, Chazz Anderson, and Dustin Grutza with Collaros pressed into action early vs. Akron. And in 2007, three again (Ben Mauk, Grutza, and Pike).

In other words, Notre Dame's Game One starter isn't running the gamut.

Look for Everett Golson, Andrew Hendrix, and Tommy Rees to take meaningful snaps for the Irish in 2012, the definition of the prediction involves the game being in doubt when each takes the field. In fact, don't be surprised if three earn a start, due more to injury/wear and tear than ineffectiveness.

It is to be hoped a fourth won't be necessary.

Prediction #9 - Eifert Exits On Top

Two tight ends stand above a score of worthy candidates at Notre Dame, claiming the mantle of program's best: Three-time All-America selection and 1977 second runner-up for the Heisman Trophy Ken MacAfee, and College (and Pro) Football Hall of Famer Dave Casper.

MacAfee held every major receiving record at the position before a former three-star prospect named Tyler Eifert stepped on campus in 2009.

Four years, a major back injury, two head coaches, three position coaches, and countless clutch catches later, Eifert will supplant MacAfee as the program's leader in career receptions (he needs 39 catches), receiving yards (he needs 605), and approach the the legend's record for touchdowns (he needs 8 to tie) at the tight end position.

Look for Eifert to break MacAfee's single-season record for touchdown receptions (6) as a third feather in his single-season cap: the emergent star broke both MacAfee's 34-year-old single season records for receptions (he finished with 63) and receiving yards (803), last fall.

Prediction #10 -- Irish Emerge 6-3

From Game Two through Game Nine, a nine-week, eight-game span, Notre Dame faces the following foes:

Purdue - Bowl winner in 2011
Michigan State - Back-to-back 11-win seasons, bowl win in 2011
Michigan - 11 wins last year including a BCS bowl victory, prevailed in three straight vs. the Irish
Miami - The only potential "break" as the Irish entertain the scuffling Hurricanes following a Week Five Bye. When Miami is your "break" that's a problem...
Stanford - 23 wins in the last two years, three straight vs. the Irish
BYU - 10 wins last season including a bowl victory
Oklahoma - 10 wins last season, pre-season Top 5, just three home losses since 1999…(not a misprint)
Pittsburgh - New head coach Paul Chryst (formerly Wisconsin's offensive coordinator) has his hands full, but with talent in place.

Phew…

The Panthers, for reasons related to both their slotting on the schedule and Notre Dame's penchant for blowing a home game as more than a touchdown underdog, is my upset special for the season. Regardless, official Prediction #10 has the Irish at 6-3 entering its final trio of contests (at Boston College, Wake Forest, at USC), irrespective of my forecast for a 4-0 start.

Look for attrition, both injury and the mental wear and tear of the nation's toughest schedule, to take its toll in October and into an early November home tilt with the Panthers as the Irish return from Norman.


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