The Notre Dame football team was ranked No. 9 in the first AP Poll, and that ranking is just about right heading into Week 1.
The AP Poll is several things. For one, it’s an antiquated system that no longer serves the purpose of determining a National Champion. At the same time, it’s a time capsule that shows who was good and how teams were perceived throughout college football better than any other model. In the initial ranking, the Notre Dame football team was No. 9.
As for how important it actually depends on your perspective. With the College Football Playoff, it could be looked at as just something to talk about for sportswriters. Except, everyone knows that these initial rankings influence how everyone’s strength of schedule is perceived, as teams will claim ranked wins that shouldn’t count and it directly impacts your strength of schedule when the College Football Playoff selection committee comes together for their first poll.
So, it’s probably a good thing for the Notre Dame football team that they will battle it out against four ranked teams in the AP Poll; Cincinnati, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and USC. All four teams are in the top-15, with Cincinnati and North Carolina being ranked in the top-10.
The Bearcats are actually ranked ahead of Notre Dame football at number 8, as for the Irish, they start at number 9 on the AP Poll.
Number 9 in the AP Poll is a bit further back than a lot of teams coming off a trip to the College Football Playoff, but it’s the same slot they ended up in to start 2019, following their Playoff loss to Clemson.
No. 9 is a fair place to start for Notre Dame football
This is also a spot that’s completely fair for this season’s Notre Dame team to start from.
Notre Dame football has a lot to prove this season. They’re replacing a ton of talent, especially on offense, and it’s not like the offense was lighting up the scoreboard like other top-tier teams did last season.
Now, they’re playing behind a completely rebuilt offensive line, with a new quarterback to Notre Dame in Jack Coan. Can these rebuilt positions function as smoothly as last season? Probably not, especially if the wide receivers don’t step up.
The defense is still going to be one of the best in college football, but it’s not without questions at cornerback. Brian Kelly knows about these questions too, otherwise, he wouldn’t have tried and ultimately failed to land transfer corner Akayleb Evans.
Still, the Irish are a perennial ten-win team these past four years under Brian Kelly. That is the expectation, and the schedule breaks where that’s on the table in 2021 again, with wins over ranked teams. There is a ton of talent on the roster overall, and that’s only going to get better as recruiting improves.
Add to that a culture of being the more physical and dominant team, and you have a great college football team.
The Notre Dame football team needs someone to step up at wide receiver, and all signs point to a breakout season for Braden Lenzy in 2021.
So, number 9 is just about right for Notre Dame. They’re not perfect, but they are a great team.