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Notre Dame Football: Deciphering What A Preseason Top 25 Ranking Actually Is

A good ranking is nice in August, but basically worthless.

Notre Dame v Michigan State Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will start the season ranked as the #11 team in the country according to the USA Today Coaches Poll. Great... but what does that mean exactly? Preseason polls are often wildly inaccurate, and are nothing more than an “educated” guess.

But what are they guessing? Are they ranking a team based on how good they actually are, or are they making a prediction of how the season might go for each team? Will these rankings eventually affect the College Football Committee in one way or another, or are the preseason polls (and any poll before week 5) just a way to fill time and column inches? (That’s an old newspaper saying kids).

Given the turnover rate, different schedules, and other variables most voters in the preseason are really just projecting what they believe the rankings will be at the end of the year. The reason why I’m confident in that assessment is because when voters are pressed into why they voted one way or another, they’ll talk about the schedule — and even the recruiting class coming in this season. Two things that generally have little to do with how good a team actually is when they start the season.

I suppose all of that had me scratching my head a bit when I saw FOX Sports, Joel Klatt explain his #11 ranking for Notre Dame in his own rankings. It was a perfect example of how confusing these preseason rankings can be.

In the clip, Klatt says that he’s worried about the play of Brandon Wimbush, and the losses of Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson. He also goes on to state that the schedule is really tough. He sees the Irish getting 8 or 9 wins.

Joel Klatt #11

"Only four coaches in Notre Dame history have been there longer than Brian Kelly. All four of those coaches won a national championship." Notre Dame Football comes in at No. 11 on Joel Klatt's Preseason Top 25

Posted by College Football on FOX on Sunday, August 19, 2018

8 or 9 wins? How can a team be on the cusp of the top 10 with a prediction of 8 or 9 wins? Last year, the highest ranked 9 win team was the LSU Tigers at 18. No 8 win teams were ranked inside the top 25. So, Klatt not only has major concerns with talent, he also uses those concerns to predict a mediocre season — and then ranks them at #11.

This is just an example of why these things hold little to no value to start the season, and in fact, little value until at least the end of September (at least). So, if you’re excited about Notre Dame’s ranking, just remember that it’s based on nothing at this point.

Keep that in mind as the AP Poll is released today, and no matter if the Irish stick around #11 or fall down to the neighborhood of #16, all things will clear up in a month or so.

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