Where does Notre Dame land in early 2016 rankings?

IRISH STEW

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

If there's one thing a fan loves more than its current team, it's the next team — the inextinguishable hope for a brighter, more prosperous future.

Did Team 127 capture that elusive national championship? No.

But next year, maybe, the Irish will finally snap the streak and summit the mountain.

And so, less than a week after Notre Dame fell 44-28 to Ohio State in the Battlefrog Fiesta Bowl to wrap up a 10-3 season, Athlon Sports has already released a set of way-too-early top 25 rankings for 2016.

The Irish landed at No. 6, behind only No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 4 Ohio State and No. 5 Florida State.

Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, running back C.J. Prosise, wide receiver Will Fuller and cornerback KeiVarae Russell have each opted to forego a final season of eligibility in South Bend in favor of the NFL, and the fate of junior linebacker and Butkus Award winner Jaylon Smith — who tore his left ACL and MCL in the Fiesta Bowl loss — is still undecided.

However, the Irish still return a wealth of weapons at the skill positions, specifically quarterback, where DeShone Kizer, Malik Zaire and Brandon Wimbush will compete for the starting job in 2016.

Check out the complete top 25 rankings here.

What do you think? Are the Irish too high, or too low? Will the 2016 season be the one Notre Dame fans have been waiting for? 

Notre Dame’s Josh Adams (33) celebrates a 98-yard touchdown run during the Notre Dame-Wake Forest NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN