(UHND.com) — Notre Dame had its first Top 10 finish in 12 years when the final AP Poll was released earlier Thursday morning. The Irish, ranked as high as 5th, finished the season ranked 9th in the final AP Poll, while the Coach’s Poll felt the mighty Horned Frogs could beat Notre Dame thus ranking them ahead of the Irish and placing them 11th.
Charlie Weis’ first season at Notre Dame ended with a loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, but it also ended with a final ranking higher than either of his two predecessors achieved in a combined 8 seasons. Weis and the Irish finished the season #9 in the AP Poll — the highest ranking since a #2 finish following the 1993 season.
After starting the season unranked the Irish moved their way up the polls and cracked the top 10 for the first time in three years and decided to stay there awhile. Even a three point loss to USC kept the Irish in the top 10.
Meanwhile in the Coach’s Poll, obviously some coaches are still bitter that Notre Dame was in the BCS over the much more deserving Oregon Ducks who lost to an unranked, 4 loss Oklahoma team in the Holiday Bowl. The Irish finished 11th in the Coach’s Poll right behind TCU which posted an impressive 4 point win over 5 loss Iowa State in the prestigious Houston Bowl.
Since the Coach’s Poll only releases their ballots for last regular season poll, we don’t know how low Steve Spurrier ranked the Irish in this poll after ranking them lower (14th) than any other coach last time. Maybe if he spent a little more time preparing South Carolina for the Independence Bowl than talking about why he ranked the Irish so low in his previous poll, the Gamecocks might not have blown a 21-0 lead over Missouri.
Forget the Coach’s Poll for a minute though since I’m sure a lot of secretaries and SID’s who fill out their coach’s ballots may get offended. The fact that the Irish finished in the top 10 for the first time in over a decade is a very big deal.
Yes it would have been nicer if the Irish won the Fiesta Bowl and finished in the top 5, but a top 10 finish is nothing to dismiss after the seasons Notre Dame has had since Lou Holtz left.
While Weis and the Irish showed they aren’t quite there yet after flirting with greatness at times this year, they exceeded the expectations of all of the “experts” and commentators out there.
This is just the beginning, with another year under Weis and staff, and with the addition of some big time recruits this year, the Irish will continue to get better and better.