Fresh off a dramatic goal-line stand that preserved a victory against rival Stanford, Notre Dame has something new to smile about tonight.
The Irish, 6-0 for the first time since 2002, debuted at No. 5 in the first BCS standings of the season, released tonight. If the Irish maintain a spot in the Top Five, they will be guaranteed a spot in their first BCS bowl since a 2007 loss to LSU in the Sugar Bowl.
There were few surprises in the Top Five, with No. 1 Alabama holding the top spot as expected. The lone surprise came in the second position where the Florida Gators sit, leapfrogging Oregon as the No. 2-ranked team in the nation.
After third-ranked Oregon, No. 4 Kansas State and No. 5 Notre Dame round out the Top Five, which come with guaranteed BCS berths at the end of the season.
Perhaps more impressive for Notre Dame was their No. 2 ranking by the computers, which make up a large share of the overall BCS score.
It's been a long time since Notre Dame has attracted this sort of attention and national profile. The Irish finished 8-5 each of the last two seasons under head coach Brian Kelly and looked ahead to a very tough schedule this season.
Thus far they've passed every test with flying colors and have caused a battered fanbase to begin believing again.
You could argue that even at No. 5 the Irish deserve better.
Alabama is the defending national champions and they certainly deserve their top ranking. They've been dominant. But outside of Michigan on opening night, the Crimson Tide have not yet faced the meat of their schedule. Mississippi State comes to Tuscaloosa on Oct. 27 and the Tide visits LSU on Nov. 3.
The Florida Gators have been, along with Notre Dame, one of the biggest surprises of this season. They already own road wins over ranked teams, Texas A&M and Tennessee, and an upset over LSU at The Swamp.
Like Alabama, the road gets trickier for Florida the next two weeks when they face South Carolina and Georgia, both at home. Such is life in the SEC, most weeks you're going to face a team that can beat you.
Oregon was the big loser in the first poll, a team who despite it's No. 2 ranking in the polls, dropped to No. 3 in the BCS. And despite what will certainly be protests from Ducks fans, they have nobody to blame but themselves.
The Ducks have been impressive, but when you compare their schedule to Florida, you see that the Gators deserve the superior ranking. Oregon holds conference wins over Arizona and Washington—good but not great teams.
Likewise their non-conference wins, over Arkansas State, Fresno State and Tennessee Tech simply don't compare to what the Gators have done at this point. And relax, if Oregon runs the table, which will require wins at USC, home against Stanford and at Oregon State, they'll be just fine.
Kansas State checks in at No. 4 both in the polls and the BCS. They're undefeated and hold impressive wins over Miami and at Oklahoma. Other than that the Wildcats don't have much on their resume. Their non-conference victories included underwhelming wins over Missouri State and North Texas.
And the Wildcats struggled to beat a tough Iowa State team this past weekend in Ames.
If you're a Notre Dame fan, you can argue that the Irish could've been ranked ahead of both Oregon and Kansas State.
Before you shoot steam out of your ears, I am basing this judgment not on talent but on what each team has accomplished thus far. You could argue that Notre Dame's wins over Michigan, Michigan State and Stanford were more impressive than Oregon's wins over Washington and Arizona.
Miami isn't what it used to be and was also thumped by K-State, but beating the Hurricane is more impressive than taking down Arkansas State and Tennessee Tech...isn't it?
Are Purdue and Navy more impressive non-conference wins than North Texas and Missouri State?
Again, this is not a prediction on where each team will finish. Kansas State has already beaten Oklahoma in Norman, a task the Irish will have a difficult time repeating in two weeks.
But when you look at the overall picture—and not just reputation or preseason rankings—Notre Dame should be ranked fourth, possibly even be as high as third.
Luckily for the Irish, and for that matter all teams that have a gripe with their standings, there is a simple solution to this problem.
Just keep winning.
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