The Fighting Irish played brilliantly and caught a few breaks, too, while winning five games by a touchdown or less.
But since the calendar flipped, the news has been mostly bad for the Irish, from the beat down they received from Alabama to Manti Te'o's fake girlfriend and now the departure from school of their starting quarterback.
The abrupt exit of Everett Golson from Notre Dame leaves the Irish unsettled at a position they were hoping would be a strength in 2013.
A university spokesman said Saturday night that as of Friday Golson was no longer enrolled at Notre Dame.
University officials declined to provide any more details on Sunday, citing student privacy laws, though multiple media outlets were reporting that Golson's departure was related to academics.
University spokesman Dennis Brown said he couldn't comment on whether Golson could return at some point. Athletic director Jack Swarbrick also declined comment.
Golson did not respond to telephone or text messages left by The Associated Press.
One thing is clear: The good feelings in South Bend produced by the best Notre Dame football season in more than two decades have been muted by everything that has come after 12-0.
It started with an embarrassing 42-14 loss against Alabama in the BCS title game, when the Crimson Tide scored on their first three possessions and jumped to a 35-0 lead.
That was quickly followed by news coach Brian Kelly had interviewed for the vacant Philadelphia Eagles job the day after the BCS game.
Then the bizarre.
The inspirational story of Te'o turned out to be the result of an elaborate hoax. The dead girlfriend that supposedly helped inspire him to play well enough to be a Heisman Trophy finalist did not exist. He had been duped and embarrassed.
Since then, it's been a series of smaller setbacks.
In March, Kelly announced Gunner Kiel, one of the top-rated quarterbacks coming out of high school a year ago, was leaving before even trying to challenge Golson for the starter's job during spring practice. Kiel transferred to Cincinnati.
NCAA rules would permit Kiel to return, but texted "I'm a Bearcat" to The (Cincinnati) Enquirer.
Then came reports that standout defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes from Auburn, Calif., a five-star recruit who signed a letter of intent in February with Notre Dame, was having second thoughts about playing for the Irish.
Though none of those problems will affect the Irish this season like not having Golson.
Behind him is Tommy Rees, a senior with lots of experience but a history of inconsistent play; Tommy Hendrix, a senior with no career starts, and freshman Malik Zaire.
Defense spearheaded Notre Dame's undefeated run last year and the Irish should be excellent on that side of the ball again in 2013. The Irish were counting on Golson's improvement to give the offense a boost after it lost some key playmakers, such as Tyler Eifert, Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood.
Kelly was asked immediately after the loss to Alabama how optimistic he was about in the Irish passing game getting better in '13, since Golson and receiver DaVaris Daniels would be back and more experienced.
Kelly pretended to panic.
"Well, if Everett would come back for another year," and then turned to Golson. "Are you coming back?"
"Yeah," Golson replied. "I'm coming back."
At least that was the plan.