No countdown can be totally inaccurate, misleading and insulting without an overrated and\or underrated assessment of the Flighty Irish, a program with one foot in the Atlantic Coast and the other Quasimodo-dragging across America toward the Pacific.
It’s tough to win with this crowd; you can get ripped for ranking Notre Dame too low, too high, or too medium.
It’s a persnickety, deep-rooted pot of loyalists, speak-easy Rockne subversives, Faust apologists and Davie-deniers sprinkled in with three or four people who actually attended the school.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
As I was writing this capsule I took a break to check our TMG comments section only to find, right on cue, a reader checking in with this bon mot: “Looking forward to your annual ranking this year…going to go with the Irish again? Ha. Ha.”
Two years ago, Rankman threw the gantlet down (ouch--right on my big toe!) and anointed Notre Dame preseason No. 1, only to recoil as the Irish wimped to a 4-8 finish that unleashed equal parts vermin and venom.
Last year I backed the Irish off to preseason No. 16 only to see them rebound to a 10-3 campaign capped by a nice win over LSU in the Vitamin C Bowl.
Notre Dame returns with a ruggedness only surpassed by its ambition and rock-band tour schedule. Not everything is equal in college football, as you know by now, and the Irish’s brand requires it to go above-and-beyond to play for the big prizes.
National contender Auburn, this year, will not play any game that does touch its state border. Notre Dame, by contrast, will play in Virginia, North Carolina and Illinois and also Syracuse in the Bronx, Navy in San Diego and USC in the Coliseum.
Another 10-win season would be as impressive as it would be unacceptable by a booster club seeking its first world championship since 1988.
Think about it: thousands upon thousands of Irish-Dodger fans in Los Angeles are set to endure the 30-year anniversary of combined drought.
It’s so easy, in all of this, to get hornswoggled.
Brian Kelly, entering his ninth season, is still recruiting at a voracious clip and still sort-of looks like the Notre Dame coach who might, maybe, get it done.
His quarterbacks, Brandon Wimbush and Ian Book, still sound better in the off season than they play in the real season. Wimbush struggled mightily last year in big-game losses, and that has to change.
Notre Dame also needs to be mentally and physically stronger if it wants to avoid another 2-2 (or worse) finish in November. This year’s closing stretch includes three away games (Northwestern, Syracuse, USC) with the lone home game being against Florida State.
This is good for college football, of course, but also something the SEC would never, ever tolerate.[/membership]