Poll notes: Voters, Vegas embrace Notre Dame after close call at Florida State

Eric Hansen
ND Insider
Notre Dame's Andrew Kristofic (73) and Zeke Correll (52) pep each other up on the sideline before the Notre Dame-Florida State game on Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.

Notre Dame’s close call Sunday night in Tallahassee, Fla., didn’t turn out to be the perceptual hit some in the Irish fan base fretted it would be.

In fact, Vegas kind of digs it.

The Iris, 66-1 longshots to win the national championship three days before their 41-38 overtime win, are 40-1 two days after it, per www.BetOnline.ag.

As for the polls, Notre Dame moved up a spot from No. 9 to No. 8 Tuesday in the AP poll, while the Irish held steady at No. 7 in the AFCA coaches poll.  

Notre Dame (1-0) hosts Toledo (1-0) and former Irish linebacker Jonathan Jones Saturday (2:30 p.m. EDT; Peacock streaming) in the home opener. The Irish have a 24-game home win streak, second in length among FBS teams to Clemson’s 28 straight.

Something to keep an eye on as ND’s postseason trajectory figures to come into focus in a defining Wisconsin-Cincinnati-Virginia Tech-USC-North Carolina gauntlet that starts Sept. 26 is how those five teams are building or imploding their own résumés.

That in turn affects Notre Dame’s strength of schedule.

The Badgers dropped a 16-10 outcome at home in their Saturday season opener, prompting a slide in the AP poll from 12th to 18th. And Virginia Tech’s 17-10 upset of North Carolina Friday night vaulted the previously unranked Hokies into the AP Top 25 at No. 19, while the Tar Heels plummeted from No. 10 to No. 24.

Three of ND’s November opponents, all unranked, were extremely unimpressive in their respective openers. Navy got rocked by Marshall, 42-7; Northern Illinois rallied to beat Georgia Tech, 22-21; and Kansas State smothered Stanford, 24-7.

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• A notable detail about each of the five games in the Sept. 26-Oct. 30 stretch, all five have bye weeks immediately ahead of their clash with Notre Dame. So does Virginia, which hosts the Irish on Nov. 13.

ND’s bye comes between an Oct. 9 road date at Virginia Tech and an Oct. 23 home game with USC.

Seven teams in 2019 had byes before their respective matchups with Notre Dame. The Irish went 7-0 in those games.

• The Irish now have two Heisman candidates, according to oddsmakers, albeit peripheral. Quarterback Jack Coan debuted on the board at 40-1 this week, while running back Kyren Williams is 50-1. Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz, who displaced Coan as the Badgers’ starter, went from 28-1 to 100-1 in a week.

Mertz admittedly looked like a Heisman contender in Wisconsin’s 2020 opener against Illinois. In that game, he went 20-for-21 for 248 yards with five TDs and no interceptions. That’s good for a 273.0 pass-efficiency rating.

Since then, he’s a cumulative 120-of-209 for 1,150 yards and four TDs with seven interceptions. That translates to a 103.25 rating.

In the last completed/uninterrupted college football season, that would translate to 106th out of 110 QBs who had enough games and pass attempts to qualify for the national rankings.

Coan, incidentally, was 19th, at 151.8, that year. ND’s Ian Book was 24th (149.1).

Follow ND Insider Eric Hansen on Twitter: @ehansenNDI