Touchdown Jesus may finally be answering the prayers of the desperate and heartbroken Irish faithful.

Head coach Charlie Weis is leading the most experienced team of his tenure, with 18 returning starters from last year's 7-6 squad.

Weis, whose salary rivals that of a CEO and is said to be worth more than $4 million a year, was nearly fired last year after the team suffered their 15th loss in two seasons.  But there's plenty of reason for optimism in South Bend this year

The Irish, who are ranked 23rd in the preseason coaches' poll, are returning 98 percent of their offense, led by third-year quarterback Jimmy Clausen.

He'll be throwing to a pair of recievers who are arguably the most talented in the country; Golden Tate and Michael Floyd.

The Domers also return a committee of running backs led by second-year tailback Armando Allen and boast an offensive line that combine for over 100 total starts.

The secondary anchors a solid defensive unit and is led by fifth- year SS Kyle McCarthy.  The departure of star linebacker Maurice Crum Jr. leaves a void the Irish must fill if they want to remain as one of the top 50 overall defenses in the country.

However, wins aren't  going to come easy for Notre Dame  They open against offensive powerhouse Nevada, then travel to The Big House to take on Michigan.

After that, they return home for their annual showdown with Michigan State before heading to Purdue.  If they can open up with three victories, look for them to carry momentum as their schedule becomes more favorable.

If all goes according to Weis's plan, watching the Irish might stop feeling like a trip to the dentist.

Can they get back to being the Notre Dame of old?  Only time will tell.

Four names you must know:

Sr. WR
Golden Tate: Led the team in receptions (58), receiving yards (1,080) and TD catches (10).  Also a star left fielder on the baseball team, so you know the kid can catch.

Sr. OT Sam Young:  Only Notre Dame lineman to start every game since his freshman year and is on pace to set the Notre Dame record for most career starts.

Jr. QB Jimmy Clausen:  The highly-touted recruit threw for more than 3,000 yards and completed more than 60 percent of his passes as a sophomore.  He has yet to live up to his billing but is finally poised to have a breakout season.

Sr. SS Kyle McCarthy: Led the much improved defense with 110 tackles last season, which also set a school record for tackles by a defensive back.