It's hard to find a team that has improved more over the course of this season than Notre Dame football. The Fighting Irish started off the season 0-2, which included an embarrassing home loss to Marshall. Many began doubting first-year head coach Marcus Freeman and wondering if the Irish would make a bowl game at all.

After that, however, Notre Dame was one of the hottest teams in the country. The Irish went 8-2 following their poor start, and have earned some huge wins. Most notably, the Irish thrashed then-undefeated Clemson 35-14 for Freeman's first signature win.

While Notre Dame did lose to USC in their final game of the campaign, they showed guts and will now take on South Carolina in the 2022 Gator Bowl. The Irish can be proud of their remarkable improvement throughout the season.

While Notre Dame is out of playoff contention this season, next season is another story. If the Irish can build on their late-season momentum to start 2023, they'll be one of the top playoff contenders next season. Let's go over a few reasons why the Irish will be big players in the 2023 national title chase.

3. Strong schedule

As the saying goes, “to be the best you have to beat the best.” Notre Dame football has a great chance to do just that thanks to its loaded 2023 schedule.

The Irish have a plethora of strong teams on their schedule next year, including three playoff contenders in Ohio State, USC and Clemson. They play the Buckeyes and Trojans at home, which should be a big advantage compared to their road matchups this season. They do play Clemson on the road, and the Tigers have won 40 straight at home, but the Irish may be the team to snap that streak considering how soundly they won this year.

Playing three national title contenders is tough, but could also be very fruitful. If the Irish can win two, or even three, of these games, they'll be in a great position in the playoff race. They do have the talent to knock off all three teams.

2. Great recruiting class

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Building a national-championship team starts with strong recruiting, and Notre Dame football is recruiting as well as any team in the country. Despite a coaching change, the Irish still pulled in the ninth-best recruiting class in 2022. Now that Freeman has a year under his belt, the 2023 class looks to be even stronger.

According to 247Sports, Notre Dame has the eighth-best recruiting class in the country, though losing five-star safety Peyton Bowen to Oklahoma on a last-second flip was tough. Still, they have 20 four-star recruits, including highly touted quarterback Kenny Minchey.

Freeman has shown that he is an outstanding recruiter, and this class is proof of it. If these freshmen can make an immediate impact, Notre Dame will be one of the best teams in the country without question. At the very least, these recruits will add to the Irish's wealth of young talent.

1. Another year of development

While the Irish entered this year with huge expectations, their roster was still very inexperienced. Notre Dame football had a plethora of underclassmen starting, particularly on offense, so growing pains weren't too much of a surprise. Those underclassmen are now coming into their own, which bodes very well for next season.

Quarterbacks Tyler Buchner, who started the season before suffering an injury, and Drew Pyne, are both just sophomores. Pyne has decided to transfer to Arizona State, though, leaving Buchner as the main man. With Buchner and Minchey, Notre Dame will have two QBs. Perhaps they add another, too.

The rest of the Irish's offense is also very young. Running backs Audric Estimee and Logan Diggs, who have combined for 1,480 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, are both just sophomores with more room to grow. Notre Dame's top wide receiver Lorenzo Styles (26 receptions for 308 yards and a touchdown) is also a sophomore, while Jayden Thomas (18 receptions for 272 yards and three touchdowns) is just a freshman.

Defense is a bit more of a question mark, as most starters are juniors and seniors. However, the Irish do still have some amazing young pieces on defense. The biggest young piece is freshman cornerback Benjamin Morrison, who leads the team with five interceptions this season.

Nearly every team in the country would kill to have the young talent that Notre Dame football does. If that young talent lives up to expectations, the Irish will be a top contender in 2023.