Texas A&M’s huge 29-24 win over previously No. 1-ranked Alabama has shaken up the polls. The Tide dropped to No. 4 in the AP poll following the loss. But the real question now is, which of the three remaining undefeated teams—Oregon, Kansas State or Notre Dame—truly deserves to be No. 1?
Many AP voters feel that Oregon is the team that belongs atop the standings after 11 weeks. The 10-0 Ducks received 45 first-place votes and thus took the top spot in the Week 12 AP poll.
Some also feel that Kansas State is No. 1. A total of 14 voters think that the 10-0 Wildcats are the best team in the country.
There is one lone voter, however, who gave the undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish a first-place vote. Pete DiPrimio from the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel went against the grain and chose the Irish over both Oregon and Kansas State, the teams that the majority of college football fans and analysts feel have proven themselves to be the best in the sport so far this season.
That DiPrimio happens to work for an Indiana newspaper in a town located just two hours from Notre Dame’s campus in South Bend obviously is going to raise questions about possible homerism. But maybe, just maybe, DiPrimio’s vote for the Irish isn’t as sneaky as some would try to make it seem.
After picking up a 21-6 win over Boston College on Saturday, Notre Dame is 0-0, just like Oregon and Kansas State. The Irish have four victories over ranked teams on their resume, including wins over Stanford and Oklahoma, which are both ranked in the top 15 of the AP poll.
Which team deserves the No. 1 ranking?
By comparison, Oregon has three wins over ranked teams, but no wins over a team ranked in the top 15. Like Notre Dame, Kansas State has four wins over ranked teams, but only one victory, a Week 4 win at Oklahoma, over a team ranked in the top 15.
Before the season started, Notre Dame’s schedule was thought to be one of the toughest in all of college football, and the Irish have managed to survive every challenge they’ve faced so far.
So why don’t more voters agree with DiPrimio and rank the Irish as the No. 1 team in the country?
Well, it’s no secret that the team’s poor performance at home against Pittsburgh in Week 10 has tainted Notre Dame in the eyes of voters. The team managed to beat the Panthers 29-26 in triple overtime, but it was a game that the Irish probably shouldn’t have won, given how poorly they played.
Still, as they say, a win's a win, and you can make the case that it was impressive how the Irish showed resiliency and fight by coming back and winning a game in which they played so poorly.
Plus, it’s not as if Oregon or Kansas State have played perfectly the entire season. The Ducks didn’t exactly look stellar against Washington State, and their defense was nonexistent in a 62-51 win over USC a few weeks ago. The Wildcats, on the other hand, looked terrible against North Texas, a 4-6 Sun Belt team, and they were nearly upset on the road at Iowa State a few weeks ago.
The problem for the Irish is that Oregon and Kansas State both have something that is eye-catching and appealing to voters.
The Ducks have a high-powered offense that puts up the type of numbers that are hard to fathom, while the Wildcats have QB Collin Klein, arguably the best overall player in college football this season and the clear Heisman favorite.
Notre Dame doesn’t have a flashy offense, and the Irish are the type of team that's satisfied with winning games ugly. They rely on a dominant defense, led by future top-10 NFL draft pick LB Manti Te’o, which ranks No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense and No. 8 in total defense.
That’s why the Irish will likely need either Oregon or Kansas State to lose if they want a chance at the BCS championship. Obviously, though, you shouldn’t call DiPrimio crazy for ranking Notre Dame No. 1 at this point.
Sure, Oregon has been winning by an average score of 54-22, but the Ducks have been doing it in a conference that’s known for having lackluster defenses. Is hanging 70 points on Colorado, or 59 points on Cal really all that impressive?
Right now, the argument about who is No. 1 is rather inane, considering there’s still three weeks left in the season and a lot of football is left to be played. Just a few days ago, everyone was talking about Alabama as the best team in college football, but that obviously didn’t work out.
One thing’s for sure, If Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame all finish the season undefeated, it’s going to be interesting to see which teams ultimately end up in the BCS championship game.
You can make the argument that all three deserve a shot. Notre Dame definitely has a strong resume, even though most voters don't consider the Irish to be worthy of the No. 1 spot at this point in the season.