Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE
Brian Kelly coaches a Notre Dame team that's constantly overrated.
Average preseason ranking: 24th (four years)
Average postseason ranking: 39th (four years)
Really, is there any other school you expected to see here? You can argue all you want that maybe West Virginia should have been included on the list (and you'd have a valid point) or that you don't see how Georgia and Florida should be on the list (again, fair), but nobody can argue that Notre Dame doesn't belong.
They are always somewhere in the preseason, Lou Holtz is always talking them up, they're always on TV and they have, admit it, the most god-awful alternate uniforms this year. That doesn't start to compare with how they fare after preseason rankings, though.
Notre Dame wasn't in the preseason rankings in 2007. I mean, how could they be? They finished 2007 with a record of 3-9. When they started 2008 with a winning record of 4-1, in which their only loss was to Michigan State and they defeated Michigan at home, the Irish fanbase was thinking success could be just around the corner.
Then, reality set in. They lost to North Carolina. Sure, the victory over Washington was good, but that Husky team was one of the worst in recent memory. They had consecutive losses to Pittsburgh and Boston College, the latter being a 17-0 shutout.
Their victory over Navy paled in comparison to their loss to Syracuse and their 38-3 blowout loss at USC. Their 49-21 victory over Hawaii helped them limp to a 7-6 record.
The previous season meant Notre Dame couldn't possibly be ranked in the preseason, right? Wrong. When the 2009 preseason poll was released, the Irish stood at No. 23, just in front of Big 12 members Nebraska and Kansas. The honeymoon lasted all of two weeks. After defeating Nevada, the Irish lost at Michigan and dropped out of the polls.
They did win their next three games to make an appearance at No. 25, but a 34-27 home loss to USC knocked them back out. Wins over Boston College (their first in six years) and Pac-10 doormat Washington State had them sitting pretty at 6-2 and No. 19 in the nation.
Then, the wheels fell off. They lost four consecutive games to finish the season 6-6. Although eligible for a bowl, the Irish were not invited and sat home for the holidays.
The Irish were not ranked during the entire 2010 season. They finished the season 8-5 after defeating Miami in the Sun Bowl.
Coming into the 2011 season, the Irish found themselves in a regular situation: ranked for no reason. They hadn't beaten a team that finished in the Top 25 in almost two seasons. They had a quarterback controversy and a defense with question marks. However, they were ranked No. 16.
Yea, the bottom fell out of that one with season-opening losses to South Florida at home and Michigan on the road. The Irish did rebound and beat Michigan State (something Michigan couldn't seem to do, even though they could beat Notre Dame) to start off a four-game winning streak before losing to USC at home.
After winning four more in a row and rising to as high as No. 23, they lost 28-14 at Stanford and were defeated 18-14 by Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl. Their record vs. teams that finished in the Top 25 in 2011: 2-4 (I add the USC loss even though they were on probation).
Their record versus teams that finished with a losing record: 6-0. The verdict: Six of the eight teams they defeated finished with a losing record.
Notre Dame again (for some reason) finds themselves in the Top 25 in the preseason. The Fighting Irish check in at No. 24. I wouldn't worry, though. If the recent past has taught us anything, it's that the Irish will fall out of the rankings before September is over.
They also face four teams that should still be in the Top 25 when the Irish come calling: Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC.
Tradition? Yes. Overrated? Always.