The Notre Dame Fighting Irish rang in at No. 14 in the 2013 preseason Associated Press poll released Saturday morning. That is an awfully low ranking for a team coming off a runner-up finish in the BCS.
But that is largely due to the unexpected nature of last year's unbeaten run to the national championship game, a run that many viewed as way ahead of schedule.
When the USA Today Coaches Poll was released, it seemed that losing quarterback Everett Golson was the reason the Irish were ranked at No. 11. Though after the AP poll came out, it seems that folks are just not buying Notre Dame as a Top 10-caliber team.
This Irish team, loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, is expected to be worse than Texas in 2010, a team that ranked fifth in the preseason poll and hobbled to a 5-7 record, had no clue which way was up on offense and ultimately imploded.
This Notre Dame team, with just one loss of note on defense, is apparently worse than the Florida Gators, who are ranked No. 10 and got shellacked by the Louisville Cardinals. Charlie Strong is a great coach, but he's not Nick Saban, and Louisville in the Sugar Bowl is not Alabama in the title game.
It is more than just the loss of Golson creating the stigma surrounding Notre Dame. Even after being beaten down two years in a row by the SEC, Ohio State clocked in at No. 2 to start the 2008 season.
But the good thing is the Irish have all season to prove they belong. They get to prove it against Stanford at The Farm. They get to prove it against an Arizona State team that somehow could not find its way into the Top 25. They get to prove it against USC, Michigan and Oklahoma, all ranked in the polls.
Notre Dame boasts a top-five defense in the country, with legitimate quality talent at every position.
In 2014, Prince Shembo, Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix III will come off the board as high draft picks. In 2015. KeiVarae Russell should be one of the most highly sought-after corners at the next level.
Defensive end Sheldon Day will likely be a top pick by then as well. Matthias Farley is becoming the type of safety coaches want on their roster.
Yes, the Irish's approach on offense will be more traditional, but given the talent on the roster, and quarterback Tommy Rees' command of the scheme, traditional does not mean subpar.
At No. 14, the Irish do not get to play the role of sneaking up on teams. However, they are better than teams ranked ahead of them. With quality games on the schedule, and a team that tumbled hard following the title game, expect Notre Dame to push higher as the season progresses.
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