Brian I'm sure will do this full justice soon, judging by his comments yesterday, but I'll start. This is a debatable point to be sure, but looking to next season I think there is legitimate reason to believe that our season this year provides LESS optimism for next year than if you were an ND alum after last season. Three reasons for this. First, last year ND was already playing with their Freshman QB of the future and there was reason to believe QB play would radically improve. We will have a freshman starting all year. Second, ND had the #2 or #3 recruiting class coming in, after a top 5 the year before. Third, Defense. New D-line, returning meh LB's, and question marks again at Safety.
On the other side, 10 returning starters on offense. The possibility of big improvement for said LB's. An unexpected freshmen/sophomore breakthrough somewhere. General collective snapping into place within the new system. Easier schedule. And we don't have Weis as our coach.
For now, my rational brain tells me next year could be similar to ND's this year. 7-5 ish. I think we're really looking at year three, as some have stated all along, as the year we return to expectations.