By the end of September, it will have become habit. Fingers will default to adding “meaningless” in front of each typing of “AP Poll.” Doing so will be an overreaction to fans taking offense to Notre Dame inevitably not being ranked high enough, at least not as far as they are concerned.
The fingers should more-accurately tap out “consequenceless.” In the age of the College Football Playoff selection committee, both the AP and the Coaches polls have no effect on the season. There is no reasonable way to claim otherwise in any regard. The committee does not rely on those listings to create a framework for its poll, the only one with impact.
That said, the two polls do offer a reference point and context for the first two months of the season. The preseason Coaches Poll came out at the start of the month, ranking the Irish at No. 11, with Stanford, Michigan and USC filling in from Nos. 13 to 15, respectively. Virginia Tech came in at No. 17 and Florida State was No. 19.
The AP did not vary much. It flipped Notre Dame with Michigan State, dropping the Irish to No. 12, and then came the same trio in the same order. The Seminoles again showed up at No. 19, but the Hokies fell in behind Florida State at No. 20.
Both polls included Northwestern among others receiving votes. Looking at the Wildcats schedule (not to get ahead by a day on the “Notre Dame’s Opponents” series …), they will have three difficult conference games (vs. Michigan, at Michigan State, vs. Wisconsin) before facing the Irish, so they almost certainly will not be undefeated on Nov. 3, but a 6-2 record would probably get them into the top 25 by then.
Again, these polls have no bearing on the season. The only one that does premieres Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. Until then, use them for nothing more than context and the lightest of debates. Your sanity thanks you.
Speaking of debates and sanity …
ON THE SHAMROCK SERIES UNIFORMS
Notre Dame got a few things wrong with that reveal last week. For one thing, anything tying to the contest against Syracuse at Yankee Stadium should be left for a Friday afternoon news dump. Such is the general resentment of moving that game to the coast. Any further discussion of the game, the uniforms or even a mention of baseball is met by Irish vitriol at this point.
Secondly, revealing bits and pieces of the uniform may have seemed dramatic, but that drama was only heightened by a poor first impression. The initial bits and pieces did not paint anything of an overall picture. On their own, they received few, if any, positive reviews. The jersey as a whole, though, was not lampooned as severely.
Such a gradual take should probably be applied even further. Perhaps reserve judgement until, hmmm, actually seeing the uniforms? That may seem an outlandish suggestion, but it may be worth considering. They will inevitably look different live than in a photoshopped image on a computer screen. Everything does.
BRIAN KELLY ON MARYLAND & CULTURE
Nearly every college football head coach has had to answer a question this preseason about how their programs protect against tragedies like the player death at Maryland this summer and how an overall culture plays a role. The Irish head coach handled the requisite inquiry on Wednesday.
“The head coach and the strength coach are extremely important in developing a strong relationship on what you want accomplished,” Kelly said. “Everybody is interested in bigger, faster, stronger. How do you get there? I still think you get there by being demanding but never demeaning. I think that’s the line that’s out there.”
Kelly also distinguished between the culture and the role of the training staff.
“When I say demanding, never demeaning, that goes for everybody, and anything in this program is my responsibility,” he said.
“As it relates to protocol relative to the young man that tragically passed, that’s really outside my purview. That would fall under our athletic trainers and the protocols they have in place.”
MORE PLAYERS OF THE DAYS
As he has throughout all of preseason practice, Kelly continued to give Twitter praise to three players after each practice last week, one from offense, defense and special teams. Last week’s “Leftovers & Links” listed off the honorees through eight practices. Since then:
— Chris Finke, Jonathan Jones and Isaiah Robertson (special teams).
— Nic Weishar, Nicco Fertitta and Shaun Crawford (special teams).
— Jafar Armstrong, Ade Ogundeji and Tyler Newsome.
— Kevin Austin, Devin Studstill and Josh Lugg (special teams).
— Khalid Kareem, Braden Lenzy and Chase Claypool (special teams).
Claypool’s special teams designation stands out, considering the junior receiver made only one tackle last season after excelling with 11 as a freshman. Despite his prominent role in the offense, it seems Notre Dame may still need Claypool in some coverage situations.
Only Crawford was named Player of the Day three times across 13 different sets from Kelly.
“Which Irish unit do you see underperforming expectations for this year? Which would you bet on exceeding expectations? — Andrew from Fairfax, Va.
These answers will seem tied to each other. That is more coincidence than intention.
Notre Dame’s receivers are getting decent praise this preseason. Trotting out two physical, 6-foot-4 upperclassmen will create that, and Claypool and senior Miles Boykin undeniably have the potential to change the season. But wasn’t the same said about those two and Equanimeous St. Brown last year, not to mention Kevin Stepherson?
It didn’t happen.
Sure, some of that tied to inconsistent quarterback play, but that receivers corps did not do much to help Brandon Wimbush. Until they do in real competition, it may not be the worst idea to pump the brakes on the hopes for the largely-unproven receivers.
The Irish running backs are even more unproven, but they are also not receiving much faith at this point. With senior Dexter Williams likely sidelined for the first four weeks of the year, it is an exceedingly young group of five, with 40 percent of the stable first getting reps at running back within the last six months.
However, behind a strong offensive line and with an offensive coordinator intent on running the ball, they will be well-positioned to surpass the meager thoughts afforded them to date.
AND HERE WE ARE, WITH THE UNDERWORLD FROZEN OVER
Yes, a reader among you submitted such a stellar comment it must mean ice has replaced fire. To you, RBmat, I raise tonight’s bottle of Leinenkugel’s Creamy Dark.
“In honor of Ball State’s most famous alumni … D Letterman Esq., I give you the top-10 reasons why you might be interested in the [Sept. 8] game:
10) Since her significant other, Steadman, is a BSU alum, maybe Oprah will be at the game.
9) Many fans will leave early, making the drive back to Chicago a little more tolerable.
8) You will learn the roster, as everybody in uniform may play thanks to the new NCAA rule.
7) 1,000 yards of total offense.
6) Paul Shaffer will be guest director for the ND band at halftime.
5) ESPN’s GameDay will not be there, saving us from Lee Corso dressing as the leprechaun.
4) Reported sightings of the apparition of Knute Rockne on campus, floating about muttering, “Ball State … We have sunk to playing Ball State …”
3) This will be the closest anyone will get to Muncie, Ind.
2) I have run out of reasons, seriously, except …
The No. 1 reason to be interested in Notre Dame vs. Ball State on Sept. 8: Jurkovec, Jurkovec, Jurkovec.”
INSIDE THE IRISH READING:
— Notre Dame’s preseason continues with contact drills and ‘Players of the Day’
— Three Michigan natives may (finally) provide Notre Dame a genuine pass rush
— Notre Dame’s backup QB Ian Book’s progress removes some restrictions on starter Brandon Wimbush
— Notre Dame reveals Yankees-inspired look for 2018 Shamrock Series
— 40 Predictions, 1-20 with an offensive focus
— Notre Dame’s Opponents: Ball State
— Notre Dame’s Opponents: Vanderbilt
— Notre Dame’s Opponents: Wake Forest
— Notre Dame’s Opponents: Virginia Tech
— Notre Dame’s Opponents: Pittsburgh
— Notre Dame’s Opponents: Navy
— Film analysis: Six plays with Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love ($)
— Tyler James’ ranking the top-25 players on Notre Dame’s roster for 2018
— SI’s 2018 preseason All-American teams
— 25 college football QBs I’d pay to see in 2018
— The next great USC QB shouldn’t even be in college
— Vanderbilt offensive line bears burden of turnovers, run game, protecting Kyle Shurmur
— How Charlie Weis Jr., FAU’s 25-year-old offensive coordinator, earned Lane Kiffin’s trust
Have a question? A suggestion? An abstract wondering? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org