On Sunday afternoon, we saw the new set of college football rankings, and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish came in at #18 in the Coaches Poll and #15 in the AP Top 25.
It takes just one glance at both polls side by side to see the major difference for Notre Dame in the polls as the coaches have the Duke Blue Devils and USC Trojans ranked ahead of Notre Dame, and the AP does the opposite. Meanwhile... both sets of rankings have Notre Dame ranked back ahead of the Louisville Cardinals (which throws the coaches poll argument of better record in the trash).
At any rate — I’m not here to pick apart the rankings.
At some point during just about every offseason, the “Notre Dame is overrated” movement takes off and picks up steam with the rest of the college football world. Despite finishing in the rankings better than they started for most of the last decade, the narrative of overrated remains. Hits like last year when the Irish started ranked #5 and then go on to a 9-4 record and a #18 finish, for example, feed that overrated narrative quite well.
Notre Dame isn’t going to get a playoff berth. A 10-2 regular season finish might be good enough for a New Year’s 6 Bowl bid, but it’s still a little early to put much hope into that scenario. Still... 10-2 and then 11-2 to finish the season is still very much on the table.
Notre Dame started the season ranked #13 in the AP Top 25 Poll. If Notre Dame wins out and ends the season 11-2 (NY6 bowl game or not), they are all but guaranteed a spot inside the top 10 when the final AP poll is released after the national championship game. Remember — the college football playoff rankings don’t do a final poll after the bowl games.
While finishing #9 in the country and a Pop Tarts Bowl win may not get you excited right now (or ever), the finish would still exceed the preseason ranking which (once again) is a narrative win for the Irish, which is still something to cheer for during the last quarter of the season.
Top 10 finishes are bulletpoint gold for recruiting. Notre Dame hasn’t won a consensus national championship in 35 years, so if you’re the type of person that bemoans the thought of being proud about such a finish — this post isn’t for you. If you’re looking to add a little more meaning to a season that saw a handful of top goals slip away, then this is your best bet.