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Michael Conroy, Associated Press
Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees throws against Navy during the first half of an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011.

No one is about to anoint Notre Dame a player in next year's national title race, and it's way too early to even say the Irish have regained their place among the country's elite programs.

But Notre Dame's merciless dissection of Navy on Saturday showed signs of its progress, and gave a glimpse of the team the Irish could become. A week after a lopsided loss to USC, the Irish overwhelmed the Midshipmen offensively and defensively. The seven rushing touchdowns were the most in almost 20 years, and they held Navy to a season-low 229 yards of offense.

Perhaps most telling, Notre Dame didn't fall apart after coach Brian Kelly's comments about needing to "retrain" players he inherited from Charlie Weis upset several veterans.