Brian Kelly did all that he could during his Sunday presser to refute any notion that the sky is falling in South Bend. Despite the head coach’s rational and relatively optimistic message, Notre Dame fans still probably feel like they are constantly dodging pieces of falling sky. The Irish lost a home game to rival Michigan State, the defense is much maligned, and Coach Kelly was even seen at one point on the sideline having a much heated... discussion... with Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder.
When the dust cleared Sunday and the new AP poll was released, the damage was felt as the Irish fell out of the top 25 completely. To make matters worse, there are seven unranked teams who got more votes than the Irish. Truth be told, Notre Dame probably isn’t good enough to be considered a top-25 team in the nation right now, so you really can’t disagree with the voters here.
Michigan State, whose only other game this year was a win over Furman, benefitted from beating the Irish and jumped up four spots to number eight. They don’t call ‘em Michigan St8 for nothin’, after all.
Barring some sort of 2007-like level of chaos, Notre Dame has been eliminated from playoff contention, meaning we probably don’t have to worry about the “quality” of the losses going forward. For now, that’s probably a good thing, considering the fact that Texas dropped a seven point decision to Cal on Saturday. The Longhorns fell to 21st in the rankings as a result.
Stanford handled USC, 27-10, staying put at number seven in the AP Poll. Miami jumped up ten spots to 15th after March Richt’s squad made quick work of Appalachian State, 45-10. Normally, we want to see highly ranked teams on the schedule down the stretch of the season, but many Notre Dame fans have lost confidence in their squad and are rightfully wary of top 15 teams.
Coach Kelly could be right with his optimism, however. As the season progresses, the true freshmen who are currently struggling to adjust will gain experience and confidence, growing as the season goes. The coaching staff will have time to take a long, hard look at play calling, scheme and execution on both sides of the ball. If the Irish can get a few things figured out, they can easily salvage the season with wins over either Stanford and Miami, and then beat the teams they should beat on the rest of the schedule.