Notre Dame opened the season a bit higher than many might have expected in the Pre-Season Coaches Poll at #7. It is also the highest that Notre Dame has been ranked in the preseason Coaches Poll in the Brian Kelly era on the heels of last year’s playoff run that ended in the Cotton Bowl at the hands of Alabama.
The ranking is a bit higher than some expected leading a lot of journalists to use the ranking for click-bait articles about Notre Dame being one of the most overrated teams to start the season. Not too many other teams starting the season in the top 10 can say they have 33-5 record over the last three seasons though.
Notre Dame started the 2020 season ranked 10th before a fifth-place finish. The last Notre Dame team to start a season ranked higher was Charlie Weis’s second Fighting Irish squad in 2006. They started the season ranked 3rd before finishing the year 19th following a blowout at the hands of LSU in the Sugar Bowl.
Four Notre Dame opponents open the season ranked in the top 15 with North Carolina coming in the highest at #9. Cincinnati is one spot below the Tar Heels at #10. Arch-rival USC starts the season at #14 USC, and Wisconsin, the team most think is the toughest opponent of the season comes in at #15. Of the group, Notre Dame hosts Cincinnati, North Carolina, and USC at Notre Dame Stadium while they face Wisconsin on neutral ground at Soldier Field.
The Badgers coming in ranked the lowest of Notre Dame’s ranked opponents is interesting since most Irish fans would say they are the most worried about the September 25th contest with Wisconsin in Soldier Field. USC being ranked ahead of them is particularly eyebrow-raising. The Trojans were 5-1 last season in their shortened season but preseason odds have the Irish favored against the Trojans and underdogs to the Badgers.