College football rankings 2021: Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia, Clemson, Ohio State vie for No. 1 in way-too-early Top 25

Bryce Young, Alabama Crimson Tide. (USA Today)
Bryce Young, Alabama Crimson Tide. (USA Today) /
4 of 13
College Football Rankings
Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Mandatory Credit: Robert Franklin-USA TODAY Sports /

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish played in the ACC for one year amid the unprecedented circumstances of the 2020 season and made it to the conference championship game in the process, also punching a CFP ticket in the process. But after getting handled by the eventual champion Crimson Tide, Brian Kelly’s team moves forward with some big changes to contend with.

Those changes begin with the loss of quarterback Ian Book. While the longtime starter did have his warts, there was no one who could ever question his playmaking ability and the innate leadership qualities he consistently displayed. The hope is that Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan can come in and take over the offense and deliver a similar veteran presence under center.

Moreover, the Irish have to replace the majority of the starters from one of the best offensive lines in the country. The good new, though, is that the tandem in the backfield of Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree will return to lead the offense behind a new-look line that, though inexperienced, is both talented and well-coached.

With the transition on offense, though, Notre Dame’s defense will be the key to their success in the 2021 campaign. The defense doesn’t escape the offseason without suffering their own share of losses but they have more players ready to step up there. The Fighting Irish deserve the benefit of the doubt but early tests could quickly push them down the rankings.