This ought to be interesting.

I’m pretty sure the Irish shouldn’t be ranked this high. Then again, if Brian Kelly rolls up his sleeves, Notre Dame could reassert itself after a shockingly weak 4-8 showing in 2017.

And keep in mind that rankings are a different animal under the Golden Dome. In 1986, when I was covering the Irish for the Chicago Sun-Times, they lost their first game under Lou Holtz, 24-23, to Michigan. And went from being unranked to being No. 20 in the AP poll. With an 0-1 record.

Kelly certainly needs to feel a sense of urgency. That 2012 run to the national championship was an awfully long time ago. Even ND’s last double-digit-win season, 2015, probably is starting to get lost in the rear-view mirror for a fan base that has high expectations.

That’s because 2016 was so messy that it’s difficult to tell where the Irish are headed this fall.

There are lots of explanations for Notre Dame’s fall from grace last season. But they pretty much end up pointing at Kelly, who had a bumpy ride. Agonizingly close losses. Offensive miscues. Defensive missed tackles. In-season coaching changes. . . You get the idea.

The recent ill-advised crackdown on media coverage, a rare ND public-relations gaffe, won’t help the embattled coach, who could be gone if 2017 proves to be another under-achieving season. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.