How good is Notre Dame football? How do they rate among 1-loss teams?
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I just want to say this about:
Notre Dame: The Irish’s 49-14 victory at home over USC was as good a win as any team has had this season. Alabama over Florida State, Oklahoma over Ohio State, Clemson over Louisville, TCU over Oklahoma State — none of those earlier results impressed more than what Brian Kelly’s team just did.
Alabama: Don’t know about you, but I’m fine with the Tide receiving 61 of 61 first-place votes in the Associated Press poll and 64 of 64 in the coaches’ poll. They deserve it. I’d still probably take the field to win the national title 11 weeks from now in Atlanta.
The Big 12: It’s not the best league this year, but it’s the most fun one. Four teams within a game of first-place TCU? More, please.
Matt Campbell: Get a load of the terrific young coach who has Iowa State at 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the Big 12. Remember back when Illinois hired Tim Beckman and the college football world went, “Huh?” Beckman’s Toledo teams had been decent only because of their offenses, which were run by Campbell. No surprise he’s thriving now and Beckman, well, you know.
Question of the week
Seriously, how good is Notre Dame?
The list of one-loss teams — which includes Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Washington — is so strong, but the 6-1 Irish belong squarely in playoff contention with that group. Time will tell if they’re as strong as the 2015 squad that narrowly missed the playoff, but so far, so good.
Best Irish stat: Game-breaker Josh Adams has seven rushes of at least 59 yards. From 2002 to ’14, Notre Dame had a total of eight. Adams has to be the program’s best long-ball weapon since former wide receiver Will Fuller.
“I said if we didn’t win really big, I would be disappointed.”
That was Kelly, admitting that he expected his team to blow out USC. His players will feed off that confidence now. The Trojans might feed off it next year in Los Angeles.
Big Ten power rankings
1. Penn State (7-0, 4-0): I’m still doubting the Nittany Lions are better than Ohio State, but I moved them back into the top spot after they manhandled Michigan.
2. Ohio State (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten): Forget everything that’s happened to this point — Buckeyes vs. Nittany Lions this Saturday in Columbus is quite possibly the greatest thing ever.
3. Wisconsin (7-0, 4-0): The Badgers are sleepwalking through a ridiculously easy part of their schedule. Lots of, um, luck at Illinois.
4. Michigan State (6-1, 4-0): I’ll admit, I didn’t think there was any chance the Spartans would be this successful.
5. Michigan (5-2, 2-2): The next three games — at home against Rutgers and Minnesota, and at Maryland — should be walks in the park.
6. Northwestern (4-3, 2-2): The defense showed a ton of life in a 17-10 victory over Iowa. Michigan State up next equals a nice opportunity.
7. Iowa (4-3, 1-3): Can’t help but wonder how different the Hawkeyes’ season might have been had they kept Penn State out of the end zone on the last play of their meeting in September.
8. Purdue (3-4, 1-3): The Boilermakers outgained Rutgers 474-217, had 25 first downs to the Scarlet Knights’ eight and — it boggles the mind — lost anyway.
9. Minnesota (4-3, 1-3): The Gophers struggled to win at home against lowly Illinois. That’s not going to impress anyone.
10. Indiana (3-4, 0-4): Don’t be surprised if the Hoosiers rally down the stretch and qualify for a bowl. Wisconsin is the only winning team left on the schedule.
11. Nebraska (3-4, 2-2): Husker Nation seems to have made up its mind — it wants former quarterback Scott Frost, now an up-and-coming coach at UCF, to take the reins at his alma mater.
12. Rutgers (3-4, 2-2): Consecutive victories over Illinois and Purdue and, well, at least no one’s laughing at the Knights anymore.
13. Maryland (3-4, 1-3): The Terps are next-to-last in the league in passing and dead last in defending the pass. Just FYI, that’s not a winning formula.
14. Illinois (2-5, 0-4): You know it. I know it. They know it. It’s just not supposed to be this hard.
Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.