No.1 Notre Dame

Western Union memo to Sports Illustrated: STOP. Please accept apology for ripping your mag last year for picking Notre Dame to make College Football Playoff. STOP. Anything we can do? STOP. Maybe send TMG College Sports mug in exchange for subscription? STOP

“Sorry” really is the hardest word for me. The second hardest is triskaidekaphobia.

Rankman stated last August that SI’s pandering pick of Notre Dame at preseason No. 4 was one of the most shameless ploys in the history of journalism, almost worse than William Randolph Hearst using his newspapers to suck the U.S. into the Spanish American War. [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

We saw what SI was doing, using Notre Dame as click bait to increase sales in a lagging industry.

Rankman wrote in the venerable Times of Los Angeles: “We get it. SI drums up more interest if it anoints Notre Dame, the program everyone either loves, hates to love, or loves to hate.”

Notre Dame, for what it’s worth, lost three games and missed the playoff.

Now out on his own, however, seeking all the shameless publicity he can get, Rankman sees SI’s move in a different light:

As in, what a brilliant idea!

What’s more, we’re doubling down on Notre Dame over-hype and ranking the Irish at No.1.

Ridiculous?

Maybe…you want to talk about it on your radio show? Start a Twitter war that ends with me hash-tagging you with a chop block? Did we mention the website was TMGcollegesports.com?

In retrospect, after consideration, we’ve humbly concluded that Sports Illustrated was spot on last year.

Notre Dame was a playoff caliber team and was waylaid only by a grotesque number of injuries that took its toll in the end.

The Irish rolled Texas in the opener, 38-3, but would ultimately lose their starting quarterback, two top tailbacks, their top defensive lineman and scores of others.

No team had more reasons to quit, yet Notre Dame's only defeat until late November was a two-point loss at Clemson, in the mud, against a team that would play for the national title.

The Irish were in the thick of the playoff race until another two-point loss at Stanford, which won the Pac 12.

Last year’s team, had it stayed healthy, could have won the national title. It was much better than the team in 2012 that got luckier than Justin Verlander on its way to 12-0 record but had no chance against Alabama in South Florida.

True story: Rankman remembers sitting in the press box, before the game, binoculars fixed on the two teams warming up.

Uh oh.

It was like that scene from "The Longest Day" when the German officer peers through his binoculars and sees the Allied armada headed for Normandy.

One team looked like an NFL team, the other was from South Bend.

Notre Dame had no chance.

Rankman is counting on the urgency of Brian Kelly’s program, now entering its seventh season. Notre Dame hasn’t won a national title since 1988 and needs to win one soon, or else Kelly might do what we all expect him to do some day: bolt for the NFL.

“We have only one goal and that is to be one of the four teams selected for the playoff,” Kelly stated flatly this summer.

It’s no secret Notre Dame has issues. Recent player arrests have cast a shadow over the program and raise chemistry concerns.

The fundamentals, though, are sound. Kelly has two talented quarterbacks, two talented tailbacks and a quality lead receiver in Torii Hunter Jr.

The upside of all those injuries last year is that young players got invaluable experience, which makes misleading the recurring sentence “only eight returning starters.”

Notre Dame can have a championship year if Kelly can avoid a quarterback controversy with DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire.

That’s a tricky deal, for sure.

The Irish, though, should be favored in their first 11 games before the Nov. 26 showdown at USC.

Frankly, it’s time for Notre Dame to get back the point where picking it preseason No.1 isn’t viewed as a joke or a publicity stunt.

It’s time to stand up to Alabama which, for all its greatness, still doesn’t have Notre Dame’s national gravitas or mythological pedigree.

Time, though, is running out on the Brian Kelly era.

We’re gambling Sports Illustrated wasn’t wrong about Notre Dame last year--it was just a year early.

Rankman's countdown so far:No. 16 Boise State, No. 15 Washington,No. 14USC, No. 13UCLA, No. 12Stanford, No. 11 Oregon, No. 10 Ohio State, No. 9 Michigan State, No. 8 Tennessee, No. 7 Oklahoma, No. 6 Florida State, No. 5 LSU, No. 4 Michigan,No. 3 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson.[/membership]

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