Notre Dame opens the season ranked No. 11 in the preseason USA Today Amway Coaches Poll. The Irish, who finished last season 8-5, return the majority of their starting lineup, providing some context for the bullish expectations. Only Gus Malzahn’s Auburn team is ranked higher among teams that finished with five losses in 2014.
Of course, the Coaches Poll no longer plays a role in deciding the national champion, so it’s merits are debatable. And preseason polls don’t do much more than spur on water cooler chatter or internet umbrage, which we’ve seen plenty of this week. Especially from coaches themselves—with many taking their media day speaking opportunities over the last few days to almost universally express the opinion that Notre Dame should be in a conference and all conferences should have a championship game.
(Thus providing the opportunity to remind everybody why coaches don’t usually have an opinion in things like schedules, conference championship games, or anything other than what takes place on the field of play.)
Back to the preseason rankings, the Irish may not have a vehicle for a thirteenth regular season game, but they certainly have a schedule deserving of postseason consideration. If the Irish are capable of running the gamut, they’ll have to defeat No. 10 USC, No. 12 Clemson (in Death Valley), No. 17 Georgia Tech and No. 21 Stanford (in Palo Alto). Of Notre Dame’s other opponents, only Texas received votes, tallying eight points in the preseason poll.
The Coaches Poll voters include Brian Kelly, as well as Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Ken Niumatalolo from Navy.