After another signature victory, Notre Dame continues its slow climb to the top of college football. The Irish are No. 4 in both the AP Poll and the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, behind Alabama, Oregon and Kansas State. The Irish moved up thanks to a loss by Florida, and have significantly cut the distance between them and the Wildcats as well.
More importantly, the Irish jumped to No. 3 in the BCS Standings, moving up from No. 5 and leaping Oregon, who is plagued by a soft non-conference schedule. Of the undefeated contenders, the Irish rank the lowest of the four teams in the polls, but are the computer darlings, tied with Kansas State for the highest non-human ranking. Notre Dame ranked first in two computer rankings, the Colley Matrix and the Massey rankings, coming in second in the rest of the polls, a reflection on the Irish schedule, which has certainly been criticized lately, but still holds challenging by the computers indexes.
With four title contenders undefeated, the debate will likely rage on over who the two most deserving teams are to play for BCS Championship. And while its certainly interesting debate fodder, it’s a little bit like deciding who the bad guy is with 30 minutes left in a whodunit. Each team (and their fan bases) can likely make a fairly persuasive case to be included in the top two, and just as easily each could stumble in the weeks ahead.
To his credit, when interviewed on ESPN Sunday night, Brian Kelly continued to say he wants no part in poll-watching.
“I think I’ll leave that up to the professionals,” Kelly joked on ESPN. “We’ll just work on practice and football. That’s a lot more comfortable for me.”
This is the high water mark for the Irish in the history of the BCS, matching the highest ranking for the Irish from 2002, the day after the Irish beat Florida State. This is the first time in the history of the BCS that Notre Dame has been in the top five for three consecutive weeks.
That kind of stat, along with the national title hype that is bound to surround Notre Dame simply turns up the pressure on routine football games, like the one Notre Dame is set to play against Pitt on Saturday. Yet as we’ve seen with Purdue and BYU, there is no easy win for the Irish, even if the gambling line opens up at 17.5 points, like it did this afternoon at the Wynn.
And through all of the hysteria, Kelly knows it’ll be doubly important for his team to continue with the concentration that got them this far, avoiding any of the “noise” that comes with being near the top of college football.
“It will continue to get louder and louder, but I think we’ve already addressed it and we’ll continue to address it,” Kelly said. “If they fall trap to that, they’ll lose. And I know this group does not want to lose any football games. They’ve adhered to all of the things that we’ve asked them to do. We will continue to do that. But I think it’s important that you have to mention it every week, and you have to keep talking about it or you’re going to fall victim to that.”