Notre Dame football is back in the AP Top 10 following yesterday’s utter destruction of USC. The Irish are ranked 9th in the latest poll, up four spots from the 13th position they occupied before routing #11 USC to the tune of 49-14 last night inside Notre Dame Stadium. The last time Notre Dame was ranked this highly after playing an actual game was 2015.
Notre Dame opened the 2016 season in the top 10 but lost its first game to Texas and never looked back on their way to cratering at 4-8. This top 10 ranking, however, is extremely well deserved and earned through not just a 35 point victory over Southern Cal, but six wins this season now that have all been of the blowout variety.
The Irish are proving that they very much are the best one loss team in the country with convincing victory after convincing victory. Remember, in both 2015 and 2012 when Notre Dame stayed in the top 10 for much of the year the Irish were winning a lot of close games and were short on style points. That is not the case this year with victories of 33, 29, 20, 35, 30, and 35 on their resumes currently. Notre Dame now has beat two ranked opponents (USC and Michigan State) but a combined 55 points this year.
Notre Dame will get another opportunity to impress voters – and more importantly the College Football Playoff Committee – next week with #14 NC State coming into two occupying the same position Notre Dame held this week. The CFP Committee will release its first rankings of the season next Monday.
USC remained ranked this week at #21 giving Notre Dame a second win this season over a ranked opponent. Hopefully for Notre Dame’s strength of schedule sake, the Trojans can remain ranked. The other win over a ranked opponent looks a tad better on paper this week with Michigan State moving up two spots to #16 even though they looked pretty rough in their close win over Indiana. Whatever though, just keep winning for us please, Sparty. Thanks.
Things are only going to get tougher for the Irish over the final five games though. Next week’s opponent, North Carolina State, will come into Notre Dame Stadium with #14 next to their name. The Wolf Pack jumped two spots on the bye this week. Notre Dame’s chances of winning next week, however, jumped to 76.9% in ESPN’s FPI predictor.
In three weeks the Irish could be in for a showdown of top 10 teams if they can get past NC State. Miami stayed at #8 with lowly North Carolina on their slate for this coming weekend. A showdown with Virginia Tech in two weeks stands in the Hurricanes’ way in much the same way NC State looms for Notre Dame. Considering the way Miami has been eeking out victories, that game with the Hokies could easily trip them up.
Stanford jumped two spots to #20 on a bye this week as well. The Cardinal have two ranked opponents – Washington and Washington State – before the regular season finale against Notre Dame. A split from Stanford would ensure they remained ranked for Notre Dame’s trip to Palo Alto.
Lastly, Notre Dame’s lone blemish on the season remains the best loss for any one loss team with Georgia sitting at #3. The bulldogs have just one ranked opponent left and appear to be on a collision course with Alabama in the SEC Title game.