Notre Dame, IN (UHND.com) – Charlie Weis was a little confused why Notre Dame has dropped in the rankings for the fourth time this year after either winning or not playing. Weis said he was surprised that “One of the teams that jumped us had the same game that we had,” and that, “another team that jumped us wasn’t even playing. They’re sitting at home eating cheeseburgers, and they ended up jumping us. So that befuddles me.”
I’ll tell you what, after a little research last night, it befuddles me too. And here’s why.
The media loves to compare Ty Willingham and Charlie Weis since big, bad Notre Dame treated Willingham so unfairly after his 21-16 record through three seasons under the Dome, so okay, lets compare them.
The last time Notre Dame won some games ugly like Notre Dame has won a couple games this year, was 2002 – Willingham’s first year. During the first seven games of that particular year, Notre Dame’s average margin of victory was 10.6 points a game including three wins over unranked teams by a combined 19 points, but through those first seven games the Irish continued to climb the polls.
In 2002, Notre Dame started off unranked, but jumped to #23 in the polls after a 22-0 win over #21 Maryland. The 23rd ranked Irish then hosted unranked Purdue and won by seven points without scoring an offensive touchdown and moved up three spots in the polls.
After an impressive upset of #7 Michigan, the 12th ranked Irish traveled to East Lansing and defeated unranked Michigan State by just four points with a last minute, 21-17 win. After that win the Irish moved up in the rankings three spots.
Two weeks later, at home against unranked Pittsburgh, 8th ranked Notre Dame beat the Panthers by just 8 with a 14-6 victory and moved up to 7th. Three close wins over unranked teams and yet the Irish moved up in the polls each time.
To be fair, that Irish team was undefeated in 2002 through the first eight weeks as they climbed while this year’s squad has a loss.
Even after the 2002 Irish had a loss, to unranked Boston College, they still moved up in the polls after posting just a seven point victory over unranked Navy. The Irish trailed Navy by eight with just under three minutes to go in that game before they scored 15 points in the closing minutes for the victory.
So that one loss Notre Dame team which just scored the game winning touchdown against Navy with 11 seconds remaining surely dropped in the polls right? Nope. The 9th ranked Irish moved up to 8th in the polls after their furious comeback.
This all begs the question as to why the Irish have now dropped four times this year when either winning or not playing so lets look at all three situations.
The first time the Irish fell in the polls was week one when the 2nd ranked Irish won a close contest in Atlanta over Georgia Tech 14-10. Notre Dame dropped two spots in the AP poll to 4th. This one is probably the only justifiable occurrence this season. Tech was unranked and the Irish didn’t look like the #2 in the country at the time so we’ll give the pollsters a pass on this one.
Next up, the Irish dropped a spot in the Coaches’s Poll after their dramatic come from behind victory over an unranked, yet undefeated (at the time) Michigan State team. Notre Dame has just pulled off a dramatic comeback on the road in a driving rain storm, and they fell in the rankings.
Two weekends ago the Irish didn’t even play and they still dropped in the polls. After Auburn lost at home to unranked Arkansas, they beat Florida at home with the help of a very questionable “fumble” by Chris Leak. As a result, the Irish who were ranked ahead of them the week before were suddenly the inferior team despite not suiting up to play that week.
That brings us to the most recent polls. Notre Dame’s dramatic comeback over UCLA this weekend didn’t impress voters too much. Tennessee’s come from behind victory did however, as the Vols jumped the Irish in the polls. It’s easy to see why their comeback was more impressive though.
I mean, the Vols came from behind to beat an unranked, two loss team at home by three points. That is MUCH more impressive than Notre Dame’s come from behind victory over an unranked, two loss team at home by three points isn’t it?
Don’t even get me started on Florida’s rather convincing and impressive victory over the bye week which shot the Gators above the Irish. How can Notre Dame even compete with such an impressive bye week performance after theirs was so unimpressive that they fell in the polls?