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Notre Dame Football: Are 17 Teams Really Better Than the Fighting Irish?

Irish JimmyCorrespondent IAugust 26, 2016

Notre Dame Football: Are 17 Teams Really Better Than the Fighting Irish?

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    As the 2011 season draws closer, Notre Dame finds itself ranked No. 18 in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll. 

    This leads us to a question: Are there really 17 teams better than the Fighting Irish? 

    Let’s take a look at the 17 teams ranked above the Irish and see if they will indeed finish ahead in the final coaches poll.

17. Michigan State

2 of 19

    Record Last Year: 11-2

    Returning Starters: 13

    Difficult/Key Games: @Notre Dame, @Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, @Nebraska, @Iowa

    Outlook/Summation: Michigan State returns 13 starters and is coming off a thrashing at the hands of Alabama in the Capital One Bowl.  The Spartans face a much more difficult schedule and Sparty has never posted back-to-back 10-win seasons.  This year will be no different.

     

                                        Notre Dame finishes with a higher ranking.

     

16. Ohio State

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    Record Last Year: 0-1 (All 12 Victories vacated)

    Returning Starters: 12 

    Difficult/Key Games: @Miami, Michigan St., @Nebraska, Wisconsin, Penn State, @Michigan

    Outlook/Summation: How quickly does Ohio State get past the scandal and turn the page?  Last week it busted a staffer selling "JT" wristbands to players.  It looks like these guys will never learn.  Too many problems for Ohio State this season, tough schedule, too much drama and a coach with zero head coaching experience doom the Buckeyes.

     

                                        Notre Dame finishes with a higher ranking.                       

     

15. TCU

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    Record Last Year:  13-0

    Returning Starters: 10

    Difficult/Key Games: @Air Force, BYU, @Boise State

    Outlook/Summation: Lots of replacement parts needed for the Horned Frogs.  However, a recent trend of success should give them a shot at a solid season.  Just the same, I’m forecasting two regular-season losses minimum.

     

                                       Notre Dame finishes with a higher ranking.

14. Arkansas

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    Record Last Year: 10-3

    Returning Starters: 13

    Difficult/Key Games: @Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn, South Carolina, @LSU

    Outlook/Summation: Arkansas must replace quarterback Ryan Mallett and losses along the offensive line.  At best the Razorbacks finish third in their division.  Given their conference and division, this preseason rating is way too high.

     

    Notre Dame finishes with a higher ranking. 

13. Virginia Tech

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    Record Last Year:  11-3

    Returning Starters: 12

    Key Games: Miami, @Georgia Tech, @Virginia

    Outlook/Summation: Virginia Tech returns much of its offensive line, which should help a new quarterback and running back adjust.  The loss of starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor is huge, but with a very favorable schedule a return to the ACC title game is likely.  If the quarterback gels and the Hokies get on a roll, it wouldn’t shock me to see them win the ACC, which could make this preseason ranking a little bit low. 

     

    Notre Dame finishes with a higher ranking.

12. South Carolina

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    Record Last Year: 9-5

    Returning Starters: 13

    Key Games: Auburn, @Arkansas, Florida

    Outlook/Summation: South Carolina has a Heisman candidate in Marcus Lattimore and we all knew Stephen Garcia would be re-instated following his fifth suspension since arriving in Columbia.  The game versus Florida will decide which team gets defeated by Alabama or LSU in the SEC Championship Game.

     

                                                    Notre Dame finishes with a higher ranking.       

     

11. Nebraska

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    Record Last Year:  10-4

    Returning Starters: 13

    Key Games: Washington, @Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan St., @Penn State, @Michigan, Iowa         

    Outlook/Summation: The Huskers must fill three spots on the offensive line and keep Taylor Martinez upright if they plan to be successful in the physical Big Ten.  I like Nebraska winning the Legends Division and playing Wisconsin in the title game for a BCS spot.  If its quarterback stays healthy and the defense thrives, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Cornhuskers in the Rose Bowl and garnering a top 10 finish. However, I like Wisconsin winning the Big Ten. 

     

    Notre Dame finishes with a higher ranking.               

     

     

10. Wisconsin

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    Record Last Year: 11-2

    Returning Starters: 11

    Key Games: Nebraska, @Michigan St., @Ohio St., Penn State

    Outlook/Summation: My pick to win the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl, Wisconsin must replace its offensive line, but that is an area that is almost always a strength for the Badgers and the task of rebuilding should not prove too difficult.  Russell Wilson is the difference maker this year for Wisconsin, giving the team an electric passer to go with the best running game in the Big Ten.  I believe the Badgers are headed for a top five finish. 

     

    Notre Dame finishes with a lower ranking.

     

9. Texas A&M

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    Record Last Year:  9-4 

    Returning Starters: 18

    Key Games: Oklahoma St., Missouri, @Oklahoma, Texas 

    Outlook/Summation: The Aggies' toughest games—with exception of Oklahoma—are at home.  That game may decide the Big 12 Championship, however a more likely scenario sees a two-loss Texas A&M team playing in the Cotton Bowl and leaving itself out of the top 10. 

     

    Notre Dame finishes with a higher ranking.

     

8. Oklahoma State

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    Record Last Year: 11-2

    Returning Starters: 16 

    Key Games: @Texas A&M, @Texas, @Missouri, Oklahoma

    Outlook/Summation: The Cowboys return a number of starters, but they must replace six starters from a defense that wasn't very good to begin with and their toughest games are on the road.  Quarterback Brandon Weedon and Justin Blackmon may be best quarterback/wide receiver tandem in the nation, and if the offense scores like it did last year and the defense improves the Cowboys are in the BCS. 

     

    Notre Dame finishes with a higher ranking.

7. Boise State

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    Record Last Year: 12-1

    Returning Starters: 14

    Key Games: Georgia (neutral site), Nevada, Air Force, TCU

    Outlook/Summation: Much will be told in Week 1 for the Broncos.  If they can defeat Georgia they have a chance to run the table and be back in the BCS hunt.  By moving to a tougher conference, look for a two-loss Boise State team to finish well outside the top 10. 

     

    Notre Dame finishes with a higher ranking.            

     

6. Stanford

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    Record Last Year: 12-1

    Returning Starters: 11

    Key Games: @Arizona, @USC, Oregon, Cal, Notre Dame

    Outlook/Summation: For the Cardinal the loss of Jim Harbaugh will be huge.  They must also replace three starters on the offensive line and run a late-season gauntlet through Oregon, Cal, Notre Dame and a possible Pac 12 title game.  I think they finish with three total losses and a ranking outside the top 10. 

     

    Notre Dame finishes with a higher ranking.    

5. Florida State

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    Record Last Year: 10-4

    Returning Starters: 16

    Key Games: Oklahoma, Maryland, Miami, @Florida

    Outlook/Summation: Seminoles fans have very high expectations heading into 2011.  With 16 starters back, Jimbo Fisher’s ‘Noles have their eyes set on an ACC Championship and Orange Bowl berth.  I think they get it.  Look for the Florida State to finish 12-2, and a No. 5 ranking looks pretty accurate. 

     

    Notre Dame finishes with a lower ranking.

4. LSU

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    Record Last Year: 11-2

    Returning Starters: 16

    Key Games: Oregon (neutral site), Florida, Auburn, @Alabama, Arkansas

    Outlook/Summation: The winner of the LSU/Alabama game will play for the national title.  I love LSU's opening night against Oregon—the game is in the south and will be like a home game for the Tigers.  The Tigers easily finish in the top five and go to a BCS game. 

     

    Notre Dame finishes with a lower ranking.

     

3. Oregon

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    Record Last Year: 12-1

    Returning Starters: 11

    Key Games: LSU (neutral site), Nevada, @Arizona, @Stanford, USC, Oregon State

    Outlook/Summation: Oregon must replace a number of key starters and now Cliff Harris, who was suspended during the offseason.  The schedule is difficult, especially back-to-back games versus Stanford and USC, and the Willie Lyles scandal continues to hang over the Ducks like a dark cloud.  Oregon is perhaps the most overrated team in the preseason top 10. 

     

    Notre Dame finishes with a higher ranking.  

     

2. Alabama

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    Record Last Year: 10-3

    Returning Starters: 17

    Key Games: @Penn State, @Florida, LSU, @Auburn

    Outlook/Summation: The Tide must replace quarterback Greg McElroy, though four starters return on the offensive line and that will help.  In addition, 10 returning starters on defense will give the offense time to get over any growing pains.  Alabama is my pick to win the SEC and national title.   

     

    Notre Dame finishes with a lower ranking.

     

     

     

1. Oklahoma

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    Record Last Year: 12-2           

    Returning Starters: 17

    Key Games: @Florida State, Texas, Texas A&M, @Oklahoma St.

    Outlook/Summation: The Sooners must travel to Florida State early and Oklahoma State late in the season.  Most of the other tough games are at home.  Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles will give the Sooners plenty of offense.  While many project Oklahoma to win the national championship, the Alabama defense will present an immovable obstacle in that quest.

     

    Notre Dame finishes with a lower ranking.

? Notre Dame

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    So where do the Irish finish?  Notre Dame has been ranked anywhere from the Top 10 to all the way out of the Top 25 this pre-season.  I like the Irish capping a 10-2 regular season with a win in the Fiesta Bowl and a finish just outside the Top 5.  Time will tell if this comes to fruition, nevertheless there certainly are not 17 teams better than the 2011 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

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