AP Ranks Notre Dame Football #3 All-Time

In the final few excruciating days without any sort of real college football news before teams begin fall camps, the Associated Press gave college football fans across the country something to debate for the next few days on Tuesday by releasing their Top 100 All-Time programs.  Notre Dame, owners of the best all-time winning percentage, came in at ranked third.

Before jumping into the rankings and their rationale, here’s the criteria the AP used.  For every week a team was in the top 25, they received a point.  For every week they were ranked #1 they received two points.  Lastly, for every year they won the national championship (as determined by the AP), they received 10 additional points.  They ran the numbers for all polls between 1936-2015 to come up with their rankings.

You can view the full rankings here, but here’s how the top 10 shook out in their rankings.

  1. Ohio State
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Notre Dame
  4. Alabama
  5. Southern Cal
  6. Nebraska
  7. Michigan
  8. Texas
  9. Florida State
  10. Florida

None of those schools should be a surprise to anyone.  These 10 programs are all considered elite, big-name programs and even though all have fallen on hard times for stretches, they almost always rise back up to the top at some point.

AP All-Time Rankings Validate Brian Kelly’s Success

What’s really interesting about the rankings is the AP’s is the analysis they did by decades.  For each team they listed the decade during which they were the strongest and weakest.  For Notre Dame, it should be no surprise that the Irish were dominant in the 1940’s with a 96.5% showing.  It should also be no surprise that Notre Dame’s worst decade off all-time was the 2000’s when the Irish were in just 45.1% of the polls.

Let that sink in for a second and then think about the next time you complain about Brian Kelly.  The 2000’s were the absolute worst decade for Notre Dame football in the AP Poll since it’s existence.   Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham, and Charlie Weis left an absolute mess for Kelly to clean up and with four seasons left in the 2010’s, Brian Kelly has Notre Dame on track to vastly improved on those numbers.

Notre Dame has not been ranked in 46 of the 78 games that Brian Kelly has coached at Notre Dame – that’s 58.9% of the time.  Is that number up to Notre Dame’s standards?  No.  Not yet anyway.  But considering the Irish scored just a 45.1% rating in the decade before his arrival, that’s a roughly 30% improvement.  If the Irish are ranked in every game this season as they were a year ago, they will have been ranked in more than 68% of the games he’s coached.

Notre Dame Opponents in the Rankings

Notre Dame’s #1 rival Southern Cal came in at #5 meaning that the longest intersectional rivalry in all of college sports also features two of the top 5 programs of all time.  Ironically Notre Dame’s strongest decade was USC’s weakest with the Trojans scoring just a 47.3 mark in the 1940’s.   Notre Dame was 6-0-1 against USC in the 1940’s.  Thank you, Mr. Leahy.

Even with the dominance they had under Pete Carroll, the 1970’s were still their strongest decade.  Despite being ranked for all 10 match ups with USC during that decade, the Irish were just 2-8 against the Trojans.

Another long time Notre Dame rival, Michigan checked in the top 10 as well.  Michigan might be higher if it weren’t for their dreadful performance in the 1960’s during which they scored an almost embarrassing low 26.9%.  And I thought Notre Dame’s 2000’s performance looked bad.  To their credit, they rebounded by ranking in 100% of the AP polls in the 1970’s.

Unfortunately Notre Dame didn’t play Michigan in the 60’s and get to kick the Wolverines while they were down.  They did play twice during Michigan’s decade of dominance and split those contests.

Some other rivals worth nothing:

  • #18) Michigan State – Surprising ranked #1 29 times… but not since 1960
  • #23) Pitt – Panthers last won a title in 1976 but haven’t been in the top 5 since 1982.
  • #32) Stanford
  • #36) Purdue
  • #57) Boston College –  This ranking is sure to bring a smile to many Notre Dame fans’ faces
  • #60) Navy



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  1. david
    September 14, 2015 at 5:21 am
    Losing to Georgia Tech will not be Kizer’s fault. This one was already going to be a loss.

    The hot seat is Van Gorder’s. and he will either show that he can actually coach (as there’s certainly enough raw talent upfront to give GT a game), or have to answer for a truly ugly loss with Navy yet to come. I hope its the former.

    If Kizer can relax,ignore the scoreboard, and just focus on his reads and the game experience, the game will have some benefit. If not….where’s the nearest bomb shelter?

  2. That clown obviously understood that the UPI crowned its champion prior to the bowl game that year. Bama was 11-0 at that point. Don’t let facts ruin a good rant Chuckie.

  3. Some clown on ESPN was mentioning this ranking saying Alabama should be #1 because of the national championships in the Bear Bryant years. Do you know they claim a 1973 National Championship? The finished 11-1 with the loss being to Notre Dame. Notre Dame finished 11-0. Southern academics must’ve always been poor.

    Bear vs ND: 0-4

  4. david
    September 17, 2015 at 11:34 am
    You are in for one brutal dose of realty this Saturday. Johnson wants to rub VanGorder’s nose in it bad enough to shorten his career. GT will whip ND like a rented mule.
    A Plan B for yourself for the 2nd half will prove prescient.

  5. Look at the Top 10…..based on the past 25 years, Nebraska and ND are being included for “achievements in a prior life”.

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