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How we got here: Breaking down 4-0

Michigan v Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 22: Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish watches along with his team as the Irish take on the Michigan Wolverines at Notre Dame Stadium on September 22, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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After a whirlwind September saw the Irish cross the Atlantic and beat two preseason top 15 teams, the Irish are 4-0 for the first time in a decade. With the bye week coming a little bit earlier than usual, Notre Dame players and coaches get to catch their breath this weekend before heading into October ranked in the top ten for the first time since 2006.

Tracking the Irish ascent up the polls has been interesting. With a new starting quarterback, a rebuilt secondary, and the team’s best offensive weapon gone, the Irish started the season just outside the AP top 25. After their dismantling of Navy, Notre Dame jumped to No. 22. They inched up to No. 20 after sneaking by Purdue in week two. They made a huge leap forward after dominating No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing, ending up at No. 11, before creeping into the top ten with their 13-6 win over Michigan.

If September was a challenge, October offers more of the same. The No. 10 Irish will take a few days this week to get a jump start on Miami, with Al Golden’s team already 2-0 in ACC play and 3-1 overall. Playing in Soldier Field, it’s another neutral site game that’ll feature the Irish in their Shamrock Series uniforms. From there, they’ll play one of the biggest games of the weekend when Stanford comes to South Bend. They’ll face a BYU team that’s lost two road games by a total of four points before heading to Norman, Oklahoma to battle the No. 16 Sooners.

If September set the standard for what this football team can achieve, October will define the ceiling. Get through October unscathed and the Irish will be in territory not yet charted. But with a schedule as difficult as this, and four opponents all capable of beating Notre Dame, looking too far ahead is a foolish exercise.

It hasn’t been all positive for the Irish through four games. But we’ll break down each position group in the following posts to take a closer look at how the Irish jumped into the top ten and made this one of the most exciting starts to the season in years.