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2013 Notre Dame football: What you need to know

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For more on college football, follow Tom Davis via Twitter at www.twitter.com/Tom101010

Irish will face massive challenge in Week 2 at the 'Big House'

Monday, August 5, 2013 - 5:37 pm

SOUTH BEND - Here is some information that every Notre Dame football fan needs to know as the Fighting Irish open their 2013 training camp today near Marion.

First test:

The season opens vs. Temple, Aug. 31 at Notre Dame Stadium (3:30 p.m., NBC)

No, the first REAL test:

It doesn't get much more daunting than facing Michigan (Sept. 7, 8 p.m., ABC or ESPN) at the "Big House" on national TV in prime time.

Irish player you don't know now, but will soon:

Sophomore inside linebacker Jarrett Grace. He's got big shoes to fill in replacing Manti Te'o, but Brian Kelly has raved about him since March.

The Notre Dame fans will boo if:

Senior quarterback Tommy Rees throws an early interception (or two) against Temple.

The Notre Dame fans will cheer if:

Rees consistently finds senior wide receiver TJ Jones for big plays.

The season swings on:

Rees' ability to take care of the football. If he does, a BCS bowl berth is possible.

OK, enough about Rees, who else is key for the offense:

Two of them, running back George Atkinson and tight end Troy Niklas. Both have big-play capability, they've just had limited opportunities to show it.

The surprise of the season will be:

If sophomore running back Amir Carlisle can possibly play 13 days, err, games without getting injured. If he does, he could be a critical weapon for Rees and the Irish special teams.

The season's record will hinge on:

A pair of mid-season home games against Oklahoma (Sept. 28) and USC (Oct. 19). If Irish sweep these, BCS bowl is very likely. A split means it is still possible, while a couple of losses and a no-name bowl is for certain.

Season prediction:

Notre Dame finishes 9-3 regular season (losses at Michigan, vs. Oklahoma, at Stanford).