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Early computer love for the Irish

Oct 9, 2012, 4:36 PM EDT

Michigan v Notre Dame Getty Images

This Sunday, the first BCS standings will be released to the public. For many, it’ll be the start of the second-to-last opportunity to kick dirt on one of the more ridiculous achievement measurements in sports history. For others, it’ll start the official countdown until the NCAA adopts its four-team playoff in the 2014 season.

But for some Notre Dame fans, it could be reason for an early celebration. After starting the season outside the top 25 and racking up five straight victories, the BCS rankings will likely look favorably on Notre Dame’s early season work.

How favorably? According to Pat Forde‘s most recent column, the Irish currently find themselves in the mix for the top spot in the rankings. Expect that to create a little hysteria with both Irish fans and haters.

Despite the overwhelming belief among human voters that Alabama is the best team in America and Oregon is No. 2, the computers aren’t buying it. At least not yet. The Dash looked at five of the six rankings that are used by the BCS – Wolfe doesn’t release its first public rankings until Sunday – and four different teams are ranked No. 1: Alabama (Sagarin), Florida (Anderson & Hester), Oregon (Billingsley) and Notre Dame (Colley and Massey).

That’s right, Notre Dame is first in more computer formulas than Alabama. Don’t tell Harvey Updyke or he’s liable to graffiti the Golden Dome. And Oregon is only ranked higher than sixth by Billingsley.

A lot can change this weekend, but as of right now the computers rank the top five this way (throwing out the high and low ratings for each team, per the BCS formula):

Florida (1). Difference from the USA Today coaches poll: plus-five spots. The microchips are impressed by the four Southeastern Conference victories – well, at least by three of them. Beating Kentucky probably doesn’t do much for the strength of schedule.

Notre Dame (2). Difference from the USA Today coaches poll: plus-five spots. The Fighting Irish benefit from having played four major-conference opponents – if indeed the Big Ten counts as a major conference in 2012. And they could conceivably move up to the computer top spot with a victory over highly ranked Stanford on Saturday.

South Carolina (3). Difference from the USA Today coaches poll: none. The Gamecocks could leapfrog the Irish and the Gators with a computer-pleasing victory at LSU on Saturday.

West Virginia (4). Difference from the USA Today coaches poll: none. Beating Texas on the road was a big boost.

Alabama (5). Difference from the USA Today coaches poll: minus-four spots. The two big September games turned out to be blowouts of disappointing teams – Michigan and Arkansas – and the rest of the schedule has been easy.

Of course, if you’re looking for a reason why Saturday’s game — already a game you can argue is the most important on the schedule — has ramped up the stakes, look at these rankings. The Irish won’t be anywhere near the head table if they slip up and lose to Stanford this weekend, but will bolster their already sterling resume with a win.

It’s interesting to look at these early rankings more from a scheduling perspective than anything else. Florida, who opened this season barely in the top 25, vaulted all the way to the top spot, thanks to victories over Bowling Green and four SEC teams, including then No. 2 LSU.

The Irish have followed a similar formula: Roll past Navy, then beat three Big Ten opponents (Michigan State was No. 10, Michigan started the year in the top ten), while also pasting Miami. There’s no quicker way to climb computer rankings than impressively defeat an impressive schedule, even if the pollsters are lagging a few spots behind.

South Carolina hurt its own cause by playing East Carolina and UAB. But if they’re undefeated in two weeks, they should be at the top of the food chain because they’ll need to run through No. 9 LSU and No. 4 Florida, the BCS’s best team via spreadsheet.

And Alabama fans can rest easy. Playing Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic is beneath a team of this caliber, but they didn’t get much help from Arkansas or Michigan either. The Crimson Tide’s schedule stays manageable until its battle with LSU, which comes after road games at Missouri and Tennessee, and a date with upstart offense Mississippi State.

Get excited over this at your own risk. But it’s good to see teams playing difficult schedules are getting rewarded for their efforts.

  1. tburke9601 - Oct 9, 2012 at 4:50 PM

    First. Yeah your right pretty lame.

    • ndgoldandblue - Oct 9, 2012 at 10:03 PM

      hehe…see? Told ya.

      • ndgoldandblue - Oct 10, 2012 at 8:23 AM

        Guys, why the thumbs down? All tburke is saying is that putting “first” if you are the first commenter on a blog is lame, which is also something I said last week. He’s not commenting on the ND football team.

      • tburke9601 - Oct 10, 2012 at 3:20 PM

        ndgoldandblue—it’s ok even i gave myself a thumbs down!

  2. tburke9601 - Oct 9, 2012 at 5:17 PM

    I was one of the ones saying we had the most difficult schedule this season. But that was before the season as of right now, ND schedule is probably in the top 10 but can’t call it the toughest because of our opponents not holding up to their end of the bargain.

  3. kiopta1 - Oct 9, 2012 at 5:29 PM

    These don’t mean much until the last few weeks of the season. Way too much football left to be played. I do however, wish there was a good system to subtract from teams that schedule multiple cupcake games.

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Oct 9, 2012 at 10:51 PM

      kiopta1 is exactly right. The math used to build these formulas is based upon a COMPLETED season. Not a single one of the architects behind these formulas would tell you that their rankings are the “truth” until all of the regular season games have been played.

  4. kiopta1 - Oct 9, 2012 at 5:30 PM

    Or teams that only play one or two decent teams all year and then get ranked high when they go undefeated or one loss.

  5. bernhtp - Oct 9, 2012 at 5:34 PM

    It’s good to get computer love because the rankings ultimately decide the top two teams. If, say, Alabama, Oregon, West Virginia, and Notre Dame are undefeated (unlikely but possible), I want computer love to get us into the championship game.

  6. dapperdanirish - Oct 9, 2012 at 6:41 PM

    Keith, I love when I check the app and there are multiple articles posted in the same day. Makes my day. Great content and interesting reads. Thanks!

  7. NotreDan - Oct 9, 2012 at 6:59 PM

    One week at a time.

    Stanford will not throw deep. My only real concern going into the game is our offensive line play. Good game, we walk; bad game, toss-up.

    I’ve been thinking a lot, and I think the key differences between last year and this are 2 things (other than turnovers).

    1) Attitude. Our talent is better in some spots, worse in others, but about the same overall. These guys believe.

    2) Conditioning. We have been in better shape than any opponent this year.

    Reminds me of when I was playing Pop-Warner. My summer workouts, administered by my Dad, consisted of baling about 3,000 bales of hay (the old square kind). It wasn’t sexy… hell, no conditioning is, but I rarely got tired.

    I just get the feeling that we have that “grit” this year. Maybe I’m full of crap, but it seems to make the most sense to me.

    • nudeman - Oct 9, 2012 at 7:09 PM

      Are you saying that a hot, sweaty Christie Brinkley, Hayden Panietierre or Sandra Bullock in a tight spandex outfit is NOT sexy?

      • 808raiderinparadise - Oct 9, 2012 at 7:11 PM

        No he is saying that bales of hay wearing bikinis aren’t sexy

      • NotreDan - Oct 9, 2012 at 8:16 PM

        LOL. Good one Nude.

        Boy I went sorta bonkers on LOW huh? No more posting after midnight for me.

      • nudeman - Oct 9, 2012 at 8:24 PM


        Wrong. We need MORE of that here, not less.
        First “Vulva” reference I can recall here in a long time.
        Heretofore it will be known as your “vulvan moment”.


      • NotreDan - Oct 9, 2012 at 10:06 PM

        Ahhh. Everyone needs a vulva moment. Something tells me we may drink a whiskey together someday.

      • NotreDan - Oct 9, 2012 at 10:08 PM

        *vulvan …

    • heisenbyrg - Oct 9, 2012 at 8:19 PM


      I know a good, drunken outburst when I see one, and that, sir, was a doozy.

      • NotreDan - Oct 9, 2012 at 10:04 PM

        Hahaha well. I usually get oiled up watching at home. I’ll see what I can cook up

  8. gtizzo - Oct 9, 2012 at 7:29 PM

    Glad to see they didn’t put Oregon in the top 5. The PAC-10 is awful outside of maybe Stanford, USC. Florida at number one is really silly more then anything else. Texas A&M and Tennessee are not exactly powerhouses in the SEC or in college football. LSU had a hard time with Auburn and Towson…they were bound to lose at some point. Florida didn’t exactly dominate LSU and really shouldn’t be getting that much credit for the win. West Virginia will lose when they face a defense that can slow them down. Since they play no defense themselves I would imagine even a suspect offense could move the ball against them. The problem with college football is preseason polling this should be the first poll of the season.

    • dallasstars9 - Oct 9, 2012 at 7:46 PM

      Nothing in your comment makes any sense – and by the way, it’s the PAC-12. And that “awful” conference currently has two undefeated teams and three one loss teams.

  9. nudeman - Oct 9, 2012 at 8:00 PM

    Anybody beside me prefer that we are NOT ranked #1 now?

    Other than bragging rights, there’s no value in being #1 after the 6th game. Teams get even more amped up for us, players might play a little tighter, coaches might coach a little tighter.

    Would rather we fly under the radar for now and 7th is just fine with me.
    But if we beat Stanford, there will be no holding the voters and computer back. Good problem to have.

    • NotreDan - Oct 9, 2012 at 8:18 PM

      Completely agree.

      One week at a time. Focus focus focus

    • seadomer - Oct 9, 2012 at 8:45 PM

      Agreed … as you know I was “just” on the wagon
      So I hope you will join me in not using the following phrases

      – Upset Alert
      – Biggest test or any variations UNLESS it is specific

      Pls Add

    • ndirish10 - Oct 9, 2012 at 10:23 PM


      These rankings are more of a distraction than a benefit at this time of the season. GO IRISH!!!

  10. 9irish - Oct 9, 2012 at 8:18 PM

    Eh….not too worried about it right now. Just beat Stanford in the “Battle of the Eggheads”.
    If they go undefeated they will get in there. Good thing about the SEC, they are forced to beat up on each other.

  11. piratey - Oct 9, 2012 at 8:19 PM

    Ugh, would fans please stop with the “One week at a time” mantra? You’re not a coach, you’re not on the team, why the hell do YOU need to take it one week at a time? Keith, please write no more speculative articles or anything about opponents other than the upcoming one. We as fans have to focus or else…ummm… the team won’t focus with us?

    • ndfaithful - Oct 9, 2012 at 9:55 PM

      I’ll second that. It makes me laugh to think the fans are so connected that they can’t allow themselves to get excited or happy!


      then of course, somebody will tell me that I’m not allowed to think that or it might distract the boys.

      It’s honestly a riot. I wish many times we could all root and cheer like my 10 year old kid. He’s just plain happy when they’re winning and dreams of what can be. If only we could go back to that…..

      • ndgoldandblue - Oct 9, 2012 at 10:17 PM

        “then of course, somebody will tell me that I’m not allowed to think that or it might distract the boys.”
        Hilarious! I agree, but sometimes I have to remind myself that it doesn’t matter if I take things one game at a time and keep out the “white noise”, as BK likes to call it. All that matters is the players keeping their heads and tuning it out. It shouldn’t matter what we think or do.

        My wife, however, being the medical professional that she is, thinks that the overly cautious mentality of Notre Dame fans is a defense mechanism. Some people are afraid of enjoying success because it leaves them open to an even bigger heartbreak when we lose. Meh…her words, not mine.

      • papadec - Oct 10, 2012 at 1:23 AM

        ndfaithful – I have my $20 LUXOR ticket that will pay 18-1 when the Irish win the BCS Championship this year. One week at a time is fine for the coaches, I’m with your 10 year old cheering for a win every game – and counting down how many more I need before I mail the ticket in. Just hoping that 12/21/12 Mayan stuff is all wrong for the end of the world.

  12. nudeman - Oct 9, 2012 at 8:26 PM

    This is off topic, but newsworthy
    Look at this video from the USC / Utah game

    Believe it or not Kiffin let this guy go back in 2 PLAYS LATER.
    Naturally he ran the wrong route
    I hope ND would never do this

    • 9irish - Oct 9, 2012 at 8:37 PM

      I saw that before. It was obvious that the guy was knocked cuckoo. I think Lane Kiffin may have dropped in the rankings for “World’s Most Honorable Man”…imagine that. Sleazeball.

      • papadec - Oct 10, 2012 at 1:31 AM


    • Jennifer - Oct 9, 2012 at 9:18 PM

      As if I needed ANOTHER reason to loathe USC. Unconsionable! Can anybody sanction them for this?

    • ndfaithful - Oct 9, 2012 at 9:57 PM

      I hope he’s healthy but plays like that against us!

    • alsatiannd - Oct 10, 2012 at 7:36 AM

      Kiffin is an asshat.

  13. loadofwash - Oct 9, 2012 at 9:40 PM

    ND will finish out of the top BCS 10. That’s what 3 embarrassing losses will do to a wanna be program.

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Oct 9, 2012 at 11:01 PM

      How do you type such clear thoughts with your mom’s head bumping the bottom of the keyboard all the time? It’s gotta be distracting.

    • papadec - Oct 10, 2012 at 1:34 AM

      LOW – if ND finishes in the top ten of the BCS rankings, will you go away?

  14. dirtyharry1971 - Oct 9, 2012 at 11:02 PM

    Im not saying ND is the best team in the nation, heck they might not even be one of the top 10 teams in the nation but they played a tough schedule so far, tougher then bama has thats for sure.

  15. norcalirish - Oct 10, 2012 at 1:14 AM

    I am taking a risk: I am excited over this.

  16. nchdomer - Oct 10, 2012 at 2:00 PM

    This is an exciting season and ND still has the toughest schedule in the nation. MSU, Michigan and Miami will all be in bowl games, as will a lot of the upcoming opponents for ND. Amazingly, teams ranked high that are beaten by ND are suddenly spoken of as being overrated – simply because ND won. It is possible that ND could play Alabama for the National Championship, as it did in 1973. If such occurs and Michigan runs the table and plays in the Rose Bowl, doesn’t Michigan revert back to being a top ten team, as it was at the start of the season, with its only losses to the top 2 teams in the country? The talking heads that said ND had a tough schedule are now saying the schedule isn’t so tough, primarily because ND won the games. Is the SEC now a weak conference because of the play of LSU, Arkansas, Georgia, Texas A&M, Missouri, Auburn and Ole Miss? Not according to the pundits. But the Big Ten is knocked because ND beat 3 of their teams. I saw Alabama play Ole Miss. Alabama looked no better than ND and Ole Miss looked the same as Purdue. It is all perception and spin. The Michigan talking head on ESPN thought Miami was signifcantly better than ND and would win the game. Despite the result of the game, I am sure he will continue with his mantra that ND is no good and any team ND beats must be overrated. Maybe, just maybe, the teams ND beats are not overrated. Is it possible that ND is underrated by the self appointed “experts”?

  17. andyt2008 - Oct 10, 2012 at 2:01 PM

    I was prepared to accept that even if ND win out, that AL and OR would probably play for the championship, but today I took a look at the Ducks 2012 season.
    They’ve hung a lot of points on Ark St, Fresno St, Tenn Tech, AZ. Wash, and Wash St – BFD! And that lackluster competition has been scoring an ave of 20 points on the Ducks. Maybe I should wait til we can compare ND and OR results against common opponents USC and Stanford before I rule ND out of the Big Game!

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