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Wall Street Journal bullish on the Irish

Aug 30, 2009, 5:00 PM EST

The Wall Street Journal previewed the upcoming college football season, and asked “which college football giant awakens next?”

Using last year’s Alabama squad as an example (as the South Bend Tribune did the same a few weeks ago), WSJ broke down last season’s group of “fallen powers” into two divisions — last year’s mediocres and last season’s disasters.

The Mediocres: Nebraska, Florida State, Notre Dame, Miami, Clemson, and Colorado

The Disasters: Washington, Michigan, Texas A&M, UCLA, Tennessee, and Auburn.

I’ll let WSJ take it from there:

Of that first set of six, the team most likely to make massive improvement and reach a Bowl Championship Series game is Notre Dame. Yes, Notre Dame. “Not a lot of folks are respecting them,” says college-football analyst Phil Steele, who writes a popular preseason magazine.

Analysis of Notre Dame’s chances this season has been most ironic. Typically, due to their popularity, the Fighting Irish receive more hype and higher poll rankings than many think they deserve. But as a result of two straight disappointing seasons under once-heralded coach Charlie Weis, they’re actually underrated this time, entering this season ranked No. 23 in the Associated Press poll. “They could easily have been 10-3 last year,” Mr. Steel says, pointing out that the 7-6 Irish blew double-digit leads and outgained their opponent in three of those losses. Plus, Notre Dame has overwhelming experience along its offensive line, the top factor in Alabama’s turnaround last season.

The Journal has the Irish ranked 16th in their WSJ 16, with their top-five hosting the usual suspects in Florida, Texas, USC, and Oklahoma with Virginia Tech surprisingly sandwiched in at #3.

Interestingly enough, the Journal also mentions something that we’ve been noticing quite a lot this preseason as well — the apparent skepticism and near resentment of the Irish from preseason prognosticators. It’s almost as if pundits declare Notre Dame a factor at their own risk.

Regardless, the futile yet mandatory exercise of preseason predictions will be forgotten once the games kick off this Thursday.

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