BCS Longshots: A Look at the Field
Last season, Nôtre Dame came into the season rated Number 24 and worked its way to the BCS championship game.
The Irish were competitive there, at least until the opening kickoff.
Still, they did get there and had a great year before they were rolled by Alabama, 42-14.
According to the USA Today Coaches Poll, the Irish have a better starting point this year. Look for them at Number 11.
And yes, we know it's a common practice for the coaches with a vote to fob the task off to various underlings, usually in the Sports Information Department. That is, until the real jockeying for position gets underway around mid-season.
Until that time, the underlings are probably better informed, anyway; the coaches are too busy getting red-eyed watching their own game videos and those of their next opponents to pay attention to what's happening elsewhere.
So, one way or another, here's how the pre-season voting set the field:
This season, we see that USC is rated Number 24, and like Nôtre Dame in 2012, not many people are giving the Trojans a shot to even win the Pac-12.
USC has to travel to Nôtre Dame but gets Stanford and UCLA at home and does not have to play Oregon. They also have to replace Matt Barkley at quarterback and revamp a defense that was -- putting it mildly -- not up to par last season.
Unless a miracle season occurs for one of them, the pre-season's ranked teams like Oregon State, Northwestern, and TCU have no shot of playing for the national title in the Rose Bowl this coming January.
UCLA will be improved, but many think that they're a year away. Brett Hundley will lead the Bruins after a great freshman year, but Jim Mora's crew must travel to both Oregon and Stanford back-to-back in late October. That could put a dent in their goal to make the Pac-12 championship game as the South Division representative, denying USC that distinction for a third straight year.
Other teams ranked in the middle of the pre-season pack include Florida, which is very banged up but can challenge for a national championship. The Gators have to play Miami, LSU, and South Carolina on the road, which could be a pitfall, even though quarterback Jeff Driskel has returned from an injury.
The Gators do get Florida State at home, and the Seminoles also have to travel to Miami and Clemson with an untested quarterback, as EJ Manuel has moved on to the pros.
LSU is always in the mix for championships, and this year will be no different. However, the Bayou Bengals have to play at Georgia and Alabama this time around. They should have beaten the Crimson Tide last year and are fully capable of knocking Alabama out of contention this season.
The last team in the middle of the pack is none other than Nôtre Dame. Rest assured they won't be sneaking up on anyone this season. The Irish have a formidable schedule, as usual, espically with games at Michigan and Stanford. The home schedule is tough, as well, with Oklahoma, USC, BYU, and Michigan State visiting the home of the Golden Dome.
The Irish also play an underrated and possibly extremely dangerous Arizona State team in Dallas at Cowboys' Stadium.
Last season, Nôtre Dame was fortunate to win a number of close games. This year, finding another four-leaf clover might prove to be more challenging. Without quarterback Everett Golson, the Irish will most likely finish their season in December in a second tier bowl game.