Ahead of Schedule?

Notre Dame's roster is built for a run to the 2015 playoffs. Saturday night in Tallahassee will determine if Brian Kelly's group is ahead of schedule.

Among Notre Dame's top eight defensive linemen, only one exhausts eligibility at season's end -- and he could be replaced by a currently suspended senior with 37 games of collegiate experience.

Behind the front is a back seven not likely to lose a regular contributor save for standout cornerback Cody Riggs -- and he might be replaced by a returning top 5-level player, suspended 26-game starter Keivarae Russell, next fall.

Flipping scrimmage, just two of Notre Dame's 10 regular skill position contributors will exit the college ranks, Ben Koyack and Cam McDaniel. THe latter is in a three-way job share with two sophomores, Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant -- a pair with the potential for greatness.

Everett Golson, the best quarterback the program has featured since at least 2009 is set to return next year as well, and he'll be the best returning quarterback for an Irish team since Brady Quinn came back for his senior season in 2006.

Yes, things are looking up for Brian Kelly's 2015 Irish. There's no reasoned argument to be made against that claim.

But what about today? Ranked No. 5, undefeated. Ahead of the projected curve to be sure.

We'll know how far ahead around midnight tonight.

The Next Tier?

During Florida State's 22-game winning streak, the Seminoles have produced 91 more touchdowns than their collective opponents. NINETY-ONE.

129 for vs. 38 against.

Over its last 22 games, Notre Dame has produced 76 touchdowns while allowing 55.

Notre Dame has won 27 of 32 games played since the last time these teams met to conclude the 2011 season. That includes a BCS Championship appearance and defeat. The main stage, one on which they were inarguably overmatched.

The Seminoles have won a whopping 32 of 34 played since including 22 straight, with last year's title to their credit.

Tonight's contest might represent another instance of a level jump for the Irish. An attempt to emerge from the "land of the very good" to the elite.

"You get yourself in it consistently, and then you breakthrough and you start playing at that caliber," said Kelly of facing the nation's best. "I think it's a process and a journey that we're on as a program.  And we expect to beat Florida State.

"I don't think you go down there thinking that you play average. You have to beat the very best to play the very best in the country."

Sixty minutes Saturday night in Tallahassee, perhaps for the nation's No. 1 ranking, with the victor having a manageable path as favorites through season's end.

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories