Notre Dame ranked No. 9 in way-too-early 2016 poll

IRISH STEW

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Let the speculation begin.

It took hours — nay, minutes — after the conclusion of Monday night's College Football Playoff national championship game for the world to turn its collective focus to the 2016 season.

For Notre Dame, that means an imminent future without Jaylon Smith, without Will Fuller, without Ronnie Stanley, without Sheldon Day.

But according to ESPN's Mark Schlabach, at least, the Irish won't suffer much of a free-fall.

Notre Dame landed at No. 9 in Schlabach's way-too-early 2016 top 25 poll on Tuesday, two spots higher than where it finished in the final Associated Press poll of the 2015 season. Three Irish opponents in 2016 — Stanford (No. 8), Michigan State (No. 14) and USC (No. 15) — also appeared in the top 25.

Unsurprisingly, the top two teams were the ones that met in college football's finale on Monday night — Clemson (No. 1) and Alabama (No. 2).

Check out the entire way-too-early top 25 here.

Notre Dame players celebrate a touchdown by DeShone Kizer (14) during the Notre Dame-Wake Forest NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN