Notre Dame will begin the 2014 season ranked in the same position, 17th, in the AP Poll as they do in the Coaches poll following the release of the pre-season AP Poll on Sunday.
While the AP Poll was released on Sunday, voting for the poll was closed two weeks ago – long before the news of the ongoing academic investigation at Notre Dame broke on Friday. How that news might have effected voters is unknown . What is known is that Notre Dame starts the season off four positions higher than they ended the 2013 season according to the AP voters.
Just like with the Coaches Poll, five different opponents on the Notre Dame schedule are included in the pre-season AP Poll – almost all of whom are in the same exact position in both. Florida State (#1), Stanford (#11), USC (#15), and North Carolina (#23) are ranked the same in both polls just like the Irish.
The only ranked Notre Dame opponent in a different position in the AP Poll is #19 Arizona State. The Sun Devils will start the 2014 season just one spot higher in the Coaches Poll at #18.
Notre Dame’s status in the Coaches Poll was also unaffected by the academic scandal with the release of that poll coming a little over two weeks ago. It will be interesting to see how the voters react to Notre Dame following their week one performance against Rice.
Normally anything short of an upset loss wouldn’t do much to a team’s ranking after one week, but if the Irish struggle at all and end up losing any of the four players involved in the current investigation for any considerable length of time, their status may change more than it normally would.
It would be very easy to argue that right now where Notre Dame ranks and how their position could be affected by this scandal are the least of Notre Dame’s concerns right now.
Regardless, positioning in the pre-season polls should be taken as directional at best. A year ago Notre Dame was ranked 14th in the pre-season AP Poll and finished 9-4 with their season concluded before New Year’s Day. Two years ago Notre Dame began the season unranked and finished the year 12-1 with the lone blemish the black eye Alabama dealt the Irish in the title game.