It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to anyone coming off a 4-8 campaign – even with an encouraging off-season – but the 2017 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team will open up the season unranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Irish did receive some votes, but will open the 2017 campaign in the “others receiving votes” category.
Even with a new defensive coordinator hailed as one of the best coordinator hires of the off-season as part of a near overhaul of the coaching staff that has left Notre Dame stronger at almost every position, starting the 2017 season ranked on the heels of last year’s 4-8 clunker was unlikely at best. Not surprisingly, the Irish come in at #30 in the first installment of the USA Today poll.
It should be noted that the USA Today poll has absolutely no bearing on the College Football Playoff rankings so where the Irish start off the season is really irrelevant for their potential playoff chances should the Irish rebound this fall.
Still, the initial Coaches Poll does give insight into how many of the nation’s coaches view the college football landscape to start the season. Not surprisingly, Alabama opens the season as the #1 ranked team with Ohio State, Florida State, USC, and defending national champion Clemson rounding out the top 5. As everyone is aware, Notre Dame will host USC in mid October for their annual showdown with the Trojans.
Before USC travels to South Bend they will host #14 Stanford – another Irish opponent this fall – in week two and will host #25 Utah the week before their trip west to take on the Irish. Yes, Utah is ranked to start the season and Notre Dame is not. So is Kansas State, South Florida, Louisville, and West Virginia.
If the Trojans maneuver those challenge unscathed, the Trojans will come to South Bend in the top 5 for the first time since that epic 2005 showdown. Just spitballing here, but wouldn’t it be nice to finally get some payback for that one this fall?
The pre-season poll highlights the resurgence of the Big 10 with Penn State (#6), Michigan (#9), and Wisconsin (#10) joining the Buckeyes to give the Big 10 40% of the Top 10 positions.
In addition to USC (#4) and Stanford (#14), Notre Dame’s 2017 schedule features two additional foes ranked in the preseason poll. Georgia opens the season ranked 15th and will travel to South Bend in the second week of the season. Miami meanwhile comes in at #18 and will host the Irish the second weekend in November.
NC State, North Carolina, Temple. and Michigan State join Notre Dame in the “Others Receiving Votes” category though the Spartans had just a single vote. Navy, despite winning at least 8 games each of the last five years, did not get a single vote, but hey Troy had 6 votes.
If you are looking for some optimism for Notre Dame starting the season unranked, they opened the 2012 season just 24th in the Coaches Poll and unranked in the AP Poll. That season turned out alright. At least until the game game in Miami, but let’s not talk about that game.