Notre Dame has earned its way into nation's top 10
Posted: Tuesday September 13, 2005 11:35AM; Updated: Tuesday September 13, 2005 6:38PM
On Sunday, the nation's Notre Dame haters -- otherwise known as fans of every other team in the country -- saw the new top 25 polls and immediately rolled their eyes. Only Notre Dame could go from unranked to the top 10 in the span of two weeks. When will the media ever get over its love affair with the Irish?
As I've stated in the past, I've always made a conscious effort to evaluate Notre Dame -- or Penn State, Alabama, etc. -- the same as any other team, to not let history or tradition hold any sort of influence. I've also said that when it comes to these rankings, once the season starts, I mostly disregard the misinformed, preseason version (which turned out to be particularly misinformed this year) and rate teams based on actual performance and results wherever possible (admittedly, teams that have yet to play meaningful games are still ranked largely on speculation).
On that note, the Irish check in this week not just in the top 10, but at No. 7. And really, why shouldn't they? They could be Northern Iowa for all I care, it still wouldn't change the fact they're the only team in the country that's gone on the road and beaten two defending BCS-conference champions. Maybe it will turn out that Michigan's not that good and that Notre Dame's fast start was a mirage, but that would be purely guesswork at this point. All I have to go by is what I've seen through two games, and what I've seen from the Irish certainly ranks among the 10 most impressive performances to date.
Pete Carroll has said all along that his team's biggest challenge this season would be maintaining its focus, and we're guessing he may have a hard time getting his USC players to focus on an Arkansas team that just lost to Vanderbilt. Not that the Trojans shouldn't still win by 30. Next game: Saturday vs. Arkansas.
Enough about Vince Young and the 'Horns' offense. How about the performance of Texas' defense against Ohio State? Showing off impressive speed, DE Tim Crowder got great pressure on the Buckeyes' quarterbacks, and the 'Horns' veteran secondary completely shut down Ted Ginn Jr. Next game: Saturday vs. Rice.
It was only Duke, but Virginia Tech's defense allowed just 35 yards of offense the entire game in a 45-0 victory. That's absurd! The Hokies have gone 9-1 in conference play since joining the ACC. No wonder the other ACC schools didn't originally want to invite them. Next game: Saturday vs. Ohio.
Under normal circumstances, I would temper my reaction to the Tigers' impressive win at Arizona State with alarm over the fact their defense allowed a staggering 560 yards, but considering LSU spent much of the prior two weeks housing and caring for Katrina evacuees, they get a mulligan. Next game: Sept. 24 vs. Tennessee.
It's judgment week for Urban Meyer. The Gators' offense has been impressive enough against Wyoming and Louisiana Tech (443 yards per game), but is it really ready for Tennessee? Meyer is either playing it coy or is extremely nervous. "We better be on our game," the coach said. Next game: Saturday vs. Tennessee.
What a difference a week -- and a step up to an SEC defense -- made for D.J. Shockley. The Dawgs' QB was just 8-of-17 passing for 112 yards and two interceptions. No need to hit the panic button just yet -- for whatever reason, Georgia always struggles against South Carolina. Next game: Saturday vs. Louisiana-Monroe.
You'd think after opening with Pittsburgh and Michigan, there would be a Ball State or Temple coming to town this week. Not at Notre Dame. Charlie Weis' team can't exactly afford a letdown against Drew Stanton and Michigan State, whose offense is averaging 592 yards per game. Next game: Saturday vs. Michigan State.
Saturday night had to be a harsh blow for Jim Tressel. His team excelled at the two areas he values most, defense (with the exception of Texas' last drive) and special teams, yet still lost. It's time for Tressel to stick with one QB, and to make sure Ginn never has another two-catch game. Next game: Saturday vs. San Diego State.
Two weeks from now, after they've played Florida and LSU, the Vols' shaky opener against UAB could seem like a distant memory. The same thing could happen, however, to Tennessee's national-title aspirations. It all depends on whether the Vols' veteran defense plays as advertised. Next game: Saturday at Florida.
Reggie Ball has officially reached the next level. The third-year QB threw for 320 yards and two touchdowns and ran nine yards for another score in the Jackets' win over North Carolina. And he's no longer trying to force passes to Calvin Johnson, either. Former QB Damarius Bilbo had eight catches for 131 yards. Next game: Saturday vs. Connecticut.
No, the Boilers did not move up five spots for whipping Akron. A whole bunch of teams ahead of them lost. Nonetheless, Purdue got off to a decent-enough start, with QB Brandon Kirsch looking efficient (22-of-34 passing, 252 yards, two TDs, no INTs) and the running game producing 211 yards. Next game: Saturday at Arizona.
Lloyd Carr's defensive changes seemed to work -- the Wolverines allowed Notre Dame just 224 yards -- but now he has an offensive mess on his hands. Injuries to RB Michael Hart, TE Tim Massaquoi and two offensive linemen, if serious, could turn QB Chad Henne into a sitting target. Next game: Saturday vs. Eastern Michigan.