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Brian Kelly is Still a Top 25 Coach, but the Fighting Irish Aren’t a Top 25 Team

Will these things even out by the time the 2017-18 season is in the books?

NCAA Football: Notre Dame Spring Game Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Sure, there are people who call it summer. But here in college football world, we like to call it “post-spring”. You know what accompanies the post-spring every year? Takes. Post-spring takes are here.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame Spring Game
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Cue the Sports Illustrated Post-Spring Power Rankings. In the first major surprise of the 2017 season, the Alabama Crimson Tide are number one. The Trojans from the University of Southern California - who statistically the Irish have the least chance of beating this season - are way up at number three. The Irish will also face off against the Stanford Cardinal, ranking 15th according to SI, the 16th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs, and the 23rd-ranked Miami Hurricanes. Typical Notre Dame Fighting Irish cakewalk, am I right?

The unsurprising thing about this list is that you don’t see the Fighting Irish with a number next to their name. Despite Bill Connelly’s stats, predictions, and optimism, there’s no way this team should be ranked by anyone in the preseason. It’s already been said, over and over again; the Irish went 4-8. They lost their offensive leader at quarterback to the NFL draft, and overhauled their coaching staff.

Yes, their coaching staff. Speaking of! Here’s something interesting. Over at CBS, they took a poll on the top 25 Power Five coaches, and guess who’s name came up? That’s right, Coach Brian Kelly. 22nd-best Power Five coach in the land.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Southern California
You know it.
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Now, before we write off the validity of a comparison between two completely different publications, let’s break this down. Last year, SI’s preseason rankings had the Irish pegged as the 12th-best team in the nation. Meanwhile, CBS put Kelly at 12th in their poll of the best college coaches in the Power Five. At the time, I largely agreed that the 12th best coach would be leading the 12th best team in the nation into battle against Texas at the beginning of the 2016 season. Fast forward one year, and well clearly now I can see how wrong I was.

But was I? This year, Kelly is the 22nd best coach in the Power Five. That’s a 10-spot drop for CBK. But you have to remember that ultimately, a coach is responsible for his team, and his team went 4-8. But what these perceptions say to me is that people believe Brian Kelly’s coaching chops are far better than what was on display in 2016.

I don’t disagree. Despite a historically bad season in 2016, Brian Kelly’s body of work at Notre Dame stands up next to the things guys like Mark Dantonio, Mike Gundy, and Gary Patterson have done in their careers (all in the top 10-15 of CBS’ list). They aren’t identical, but hey, we’re all eager to admit that things are different at Notre Dame. Why else would a coach (as I said, who’s judged based on his team) who has assembled a team that can’t crack the post-spring top 25 still be considered one of the best?

Because it’s tough to coach at Notre Dame. Brian Kelly was a proven winner in every other stop of his career, and despite manufacturing the type of success unseen for the Irish on a consistent basis for decades, the fan base has turned against him.

But based on this poll, there are unbiased folks out there who believe in the coach, and I have to say, I do too. I believe these rankings will even out by the time the season is over. The Irish will see success on the field, validating a top-22 ranking for Kelly. And we’ll probably see a top-15 ranking in the AP and College Football Playoff polls for his team.

Have You Cut the Cable Cord Yet?

Because so, so many people have. If you’re out of the loop, cord cutting - or skirting traditional cable TV agreements for cheaper, internet-based alternatives - will more than likely have a huge effect on college football (and sports, in general). We’ve already seen the massive ESPN layoffs to match this, er, “evolving content”, and now we’re wondering when the tech giants of Silicon Valley will smell blood in the water.

Consider this: Twitter has streamed NFL Thursday Night Football. Amazon could theoretically massively boost their revenue by shelling out for the rights to oh, say, the Big Ten’s Tier 1 when the existing contract is up. Google, Apple, Netflix and Hulu have all dabbled in the world of being a TV provider. Millions of subscribers have already cut the cable aspect of their cable/internet service purchasing habits. Television shows, movies, and music have driven consumers to these tech giants. You don’t need 4,000 words to get this point across: sports are next.

Of course they are. ESPN is blockbuster and whoever steps up fastest and with the best deal, assuming all of the aforementioned companies could feasibly make it happen (including Netflix), is Netflix. It might be time to explore your streaming options.

An Odd and an End

NCAA Football: Louisiana State Spring Game Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday, ESPN announced its “Industry-Leading 2017-18 College Football Bowl Schedule”, which is a funny headline. I think they mean that they lead the industry (which may soon include those tech giants I mentioned) in broadcasting bowl games, but when you’re writing a press release, you just end up sounding like you lead the industry in copying down a schedule. Anyway, keep this one in your back pocket for when you schedule your holiday travels.

In other thrilling news, LSU coach Ed Orgeron seems to be making an early effort to establish himself as a worthy replacement for the Mad Hatter. The Mad Two-Hatter, if you will. On ESPN’s “The Dan Le Batard Show”, Coach O claimed to drink 8-10 energy drinks per day, “when he’s drinking them”.

For the sake of his heart, I hope the “when he’s drinking them” is more of a “on special occasions” type of thing.

That’s all for the links this Friday. I think I’ll have a Red Bull.