Notre Dame is coming off a disastrous 4-8 season, and that's turned up the heat on coach Brian Kelly heading into his eighth year as head coach.
If there's a reason for optimism, then it's that seven of those losses were by one score. Kelly has a new offensive coordinator in Chip Long, who comes from Memphis, and a new defensive coordinator in Mike Elko, who comes from Wake Forest. It's an important year for Notre Dame in terms of the direction the program —and perhaps Kelly —is headed next.
The Irish are not ranked in Sporting News' Way-Too-Early Top 25, and here's a preview of Notre Dame's 2017 schedule, roster and biggest questions entering the season.
When is Notre Dame's spring game?
Notre Dame's Blue-Gold Spring Game is Saturday, April 22 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind. Time and television coverage has yet to be determined.
2017 Notre Dame football schedule
Sept. 2: vs. Temple
Sept. 9: vs. Georgia
Sept. 16: at Boston College
Sept. 23: at Michigan State
Sept. 30: vs. Miami, Ohio
Oct. 7: at North Carolina
Oct. 14: BYE
Oct. 21: vs. USC
Oct. 28: vs. N.C. State
Nov. 4: vs. Wake Forest
Nov. 11: at Miami, Fla.
Nov. 18: vs. Navy
Nov. 25: at Stanford
2017 Notre Dame recruiting class
Notre Dame's 2017 recruiting class had a composite ranking of No. 13 across four major sites. The Irish recruited well at tight end with Brock Wright and Cole Kmet and offensive line with Robert Hainsey, Aaron Banks and Joshua Lugg.
2017 Notre Dame roster
Notre's Dame spring and fall roster will be updated here.
Three things to watch
1. Can Wimbush take control at QB?
Don't we do this every year at Notre Dame? DeShone Kizer left for the NFL and Malik Zaire transferred, so Brandon Wimbush is the presumed favorite to start for the Irish in 2017. Ian Book also will be in the mix and freshman Avery Davis will arrive in the spring. At Memphis, Long made it work with Riley Ferguson, who had a 63.2 completion percentage and 8.3 yards per attempt. The battle between Wimbush and Book at the spring game should be interesting.
2. How will Adams fit in?
Josh Adams averages 6.5 yards per carry the last two years, but he's scored just two rushing TDs and hasn't broke 1,000 yards. Memphis relied on a committee at running back last season, and it's possible Adams will be in the same situation with Dexter Williams and C.J. Holmes. Adams has star potential and could even be a long-shot Heisman Trophy candidate, but we need to see how he fits in the new scheme and whether that leads to more TDs.
3. Who steps up on defense?
Notre Dame allowed 27.8 points per game last season, which ranked 62nd in the FBS. Brian VanGorder was fired during the season, and this is the challenge for Elko. Notre Dame could start by finding a pass rush. Linebacker Nyles Morgan led the Irish with just four sacks last season. The secondary had just eight interceptions. Let's see just how much Kelly and Elko change this defense heading into 2017.