08 November 2005

Dante's take on Notre Dame

Ol Jerz mentioned something about Notre Dame in my Top 25 post that got me to thinking.
["Leonard's Losers" Guitar music here]

I was making the argument that Notre Dame has no business in the Top 10. He countered that while he hates Notre Dame, they do have one of the toughest schedules in the nation. I've decided to dissect that argument here.

2005 Notre Dame schedule (from espn.com):
09/03 at #23 Pittsburgh W 42-21
09/10 at #3 Michigan W 17-10
09/17 Mich St L 44-41
09/24 at Washington W 36-17
10/01 at #22 Purdue W 49-28
10/15 #1 USC L 34-31
10/22 BYU W 49-23
11/05 Tennessee W 41-21
11/12 Navy 1:00 PM
11/19 Syracuse 2:30 PM
11/26 at Stanford 8:00 PM

That's a lot of ranked teams, but not so fast. Pittsburg is no longer ranked (and probably only got a token ranking as the Big East winner last year). Pitt isn't even bowl eligible right now with a 4-5 record. Michigan is still ranked but now they're #21 or #22 depending on which poll you look at. Perdue is also no longer ranked. If Tennessee slips up one more time, they won't even be going to a bowl game.

So as it stands, Notre Dame lost to #1 USC in front of their Lord and Saviour "Field Goal Jesus" (when Notre Dame wins a big bowl game I'll let them call Him "Touchdown Jesus" again). It was a close loss, but it was still a loss. And as much as Notre Dame fans might argue otherwise, they were not cheated out of a loss nor did they deserve a win. It's better than getting blown out, but it's still the kind of thing that can make or break bowl eligibility.

Notre Dame also lost to a Michigan State team that looked pretty good until they played the real teams on their schedule. Now Michigan State has to either beat Minnesota or Penn State or they won't be visiting a bowl this season.

So looking at the teams Notre Dame actually beat, Auburn, Oregon, Ohio State, Georgia, UCLA, Wisconsin, and Colorado all look just as good on paper but are ranked below Notre Dame. Now this is a subjective ranking system so I can understand putting Notre Dame ahead of some of these teams, but I'd much rather play Notre Dame than Georgia, Ohio State, or UCLA. I don't think a team in the country would feel any different (unless they get to play Georgia in Jacksonville without Shockley).

I know it's hard for the AP and coaches to look through over 100 teams and determine the top 25. Notre Dame's schedule at the beginning of this season looked pretty impressive. Looking at the teams Notre Dame plays each week in the context of where that team is that week is even pretty impressive. Looking at Notre Dame's schedule in the context of how those teams are doing now looks pretty unimpressive. Notre Dame has really picked up the slack this year and started turning their program around, but there's just too many other teams in Division I football that are flat-out better to award Notre Dame a spot in the Top 10 of any poll right now.

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