Air Force vs. Notre Dame: Why the Irish Deserve to Be Back in Top 25

John BainCorrespondent IIOctober 8, 2011

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 17: Robert Blanton #12 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish  in congratulated by teammates Danny Spond #13 and Bennett Jackson #2 after returning an interception 82-yards while playing the Michigan State Spartans during the second half September 17, 2011at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Michigan State 31-13. (Photo by John Gress/Getty Images)
John Gress/Getty Images

Ever since their rough start to the season with two heartbreaking losses to South Florida and Michigan, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have been clawing their way back to the rankings.

Since starting 0-2, Notre Dame has gone 3-0 including a blowout upset of the Michigan State Spartans. Once ranked 16th in the preseason polls, the Irish have been out of the top 25 since Week 1. With their huge Week 6 victory over Air Force, and with the losses of ranked teams, the Irish could find themselves back in the top 25 by weekend's end.

With Notre Dame's thumping of Mountain West Conference member Air Force on Saturday, they showed just what a winning team Notre Dame is capable of. A victory over Air Force should not be taken lightly. The Falcons from posted a 3-1 record entering the game, and has the the third-best running game in the nation.

Their scoring offense ranked 16th in the country entering Saturday's meeting. Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson and running back Asher Clark were limited to just 121 yards on the ground versus the Irish, a far cry from their average combined total of 364 yards a game.

With the exception of two garbage time touchdowns in late fourth quarter action, the Notre Dame defense pretty much shut down the Falcons offense.

Offensively, the Irish finally showed why they went out and secured quarterback Tommy Rees, who threw for 266 yards and four touchdowns Saturday afternoon in South Bend. On the ground, Andrew Hendrix and the rest of the ND backs rushed for 269 yards, far above their season average.

The Irish dominated this game, showing the pollsters that the Irish are a team on a mission and a team that deserves to be back in the top 25. If they are allowing a two-loss team like the Texas A&M Aggies in the top 25, then Notre Dame definitely belongs as well, especially with their four-game win streak.

Come Monday, if the Fighting Irish aren't in the top 25, they got robbed. Either way, the USC Trojans should watch out for the Fighting Irish next Saturday in South Bend.