(UHND.com) – The first AP poll of the season was released on Friday night with the Irish in second place, their highest ranking since starting the 1994 season in the same position. The second place ranking is one spot higher than Notre Dame will start the season in the Coaches Poll which was released two weeks ago.
Starting in first place in the AP is Ohio State. The Buckeyes, who are also #1 in the Coaches Poll, have used a hot ending to 2005 and their Fiesta Bowl win over the Irish to propel themselves to the top of the rankings for the 2006 season despite losing nine defensive starters.
Rounding out the Top 5 are Texas at #3, Auburn at #4, and West Virginia at #5. Notice anyone missing? That’s right, USC will start off 2006 not in the top 5 for the first time since 2003. The Trojans lost arguably one of the best backfields in their history with Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, and Lendale White all getting drafted this past April and as a result will start 6th.
USC is tied for 3rd in the Coaches Poll with Notre Dame but received a little less love from the AP voters who feel that West Virginia is a better team than USC. Real quick, how many people out there would be betting on West Virginia if those two teams played right now? I for one, would not.
Florida, LSU, Cal, and Oklahoma fill out the top 10 in that order after USC. It’s interesting to that the Sooners are ranked 10th after they opened up 5th in the Coaches Poll which was released shortly after the Bomar scandal became public.
Aside from USC, two other Notre Dame opponents are in this year’s initial AP Poll – Michigan at 14 and Penn State at 19. Michigan is one spot higher in the AP Poll than the Coaches Poll while the Lions are 19th in both.
The important thing here for the Irish is that they are now in the Top 5 in both polls to start the season which makes a title run much more likely than if they started in the teens. With their lofty starting position, an early season loss is much easier to overcome should there not be two undefeated teams at seasons end.
Something also to think about is that a big start in the first two weeks could find the Irish in first place should Texas upset Ohio State on September 9. Should that occur, the Longhorns would most likely be the top team, but just being able to think about the Irish being ranked #1 is reason enough to be excited.