Notre Dame is starting the 2018 season right where they left off in 2017 – at #11 in the polls. Well at least in the Coaches Poll anyway, but that is the only “official” poll out at this point.
After defeating LSU in the Citrus Bowl on Miles Boykin’s miraculous last minute touchdown, Notre Dame moved up three spots from their pre-bowl ranking to end the year 11th. The Irish reach a high water mark of #3 in the country in the only rankings that really do matter – the CFP Rankings – before crashing back down following a 1-2 ending to the season.
Five Notre Dame opponents are also included in the first Coaches Poll of the year. None, however rank higher than the Fighting Irish. Stanford (#13), Michigan (#14), USC (#15), Virginia Tech (#17), and Florida State (#19) give the Irish five top 20 foes in their way of a playoff run.
Notre Dame’s schedule is bookended with top 15 home matchups. Notre Dame starts the season with Michigan on Labor Day weekend and ends the month hosting Stanford. October opens with a road trip to take on #17 Virginia Tech. The Irish end the season with two ranked opponents in the final three weeks of the year. Florida State visits South Bend November 10th. Two weeks later Notre Dame ends the year on the road at Southern Cal.
Before anyone gets too excited about starting #11 and ahead of all opponents, the Coaches Poll has no impact whatsoever on the eventual playoff rankings. Oh, and the Coaches Poll has become more or a less a joke over the last few years. Most coaches don’t even fill out their rankings on their own anymore anyway.
Perhaps most interesting – or concerning – is that Notre Dame has tended to fare better under Brian Kelly when they start the season ranked lower or not at all. Last year the Irish were unranked to start the season before finishing 11th. In 2016 the Irish were near the top 10 to start the season. We all know how that one turned out. The Irish also started the 2012 season unranked. Not all of Brian Kelly’s 10 win seasons began with the Irish unranked though. In 2015 Notre Dame opened the year 11th before finishing it 12th.