(UHND.com) – The preseason ESPN/Coaches Poll was announced Friday with the Irish opening the season at 3rd, their highest pre-season ranking in over a decade. Ahead of the Irish are Ohio State and Texas with rival USC being tied for 3rd with the Irish.
An explosive returning offense as well as the excitement built by Charlie Weis in 2005 has driven the Irish back into the top 5 for the first time since the Irish started the 2002 season 8-0.
Third position is right about where I figured the Irish would be to start the season, but I figured they would be behind Ohio State and Oklahoma. That of course was before Rhett Bomar was kicked off the team earlier this year however. Still, It is surprising that Texas, despite being the defending national champion, is starting the season 2nd. They lost the heart and soul of their team when Vince Young declared for the NFL Draft. Without Young, that team would have never made it to the Rose Bowl and certainly would not have been competitive against USC.
Speaking of USC, the reloading Trojans are tied with the Irish for 3rd to start the season. Replacing Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, and Lendale White will be extremely difficult for Pete Carroll, but with the talent they have stock piled in Southern California, they have more than enough talent to justify their ranking.
With Texas and Ohio State battling each other on September 9 in Austin, the Irish should find themselves in second place should they start off the season with wins over Georgia Tech and Penn State which if it happens would be the highest ranking for the Irish since being ranked #1 following the 1993 win over Florida State.
Joining the Irish in the season’s first official poll are opponents USC (3rd), Michigan (15th), and Penn State (19th). Other Irish opponents who frequent the Top 25 polls – Georgia Tech, Purdue, Michigan State, and UCLA will all start the season unranked.