Where does Notre Dame football rank in AP preseason poll?

Mike Berardino
ND Insider
Brady Quinn hugs Marcus Freeman during a press conference announcing Marcus Freeman as the new Notre Dame head football coach Monday, Dec. 6, 2021 at the Irish Athletic Center in South Bend.

SOUTH BEND — Not since Brady Quinn was heading into his senior season has Notre Dame been ranked higher in the Associated Press preseason college football poll.

In their first season under new coach Marcus Freeman, the Irish checked in at No. 5 on Monday after occupying that same spot last week in the USA Today/Coaches Poll.

It’s the first time since 2006, when Charlie Weis’ second edition was preseason No. 2, that Notre Dame could make a top-five claim heading into the year. The Irish finished last season ranked eighth after going 11-2 and losing to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl, which also marked Freeman’s debut at the helm.

Ohio State, which Notre Dame will visit on the night of Sept. 3 in the season opener, is ranked second. Fourth-ranked Clemson (Nov. 5), 14th-ranked USC (Nov. 26) and No. 25 BYU (Oct. 8 in Las Vegas) are the other ranked teams on the Irish schedule this fall.

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This marks the 18th time Notre Dame has been ranked in the top five of the AP preseason poll since it started in 1950. The only other time the Irish were ranked fifth was 1978, when they were coming off a national championship under coach Dan Devine.

Notre Dame head football coach Dan Devine stands on field at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Dec. 5, 1980.  Devine, who coached Notre Dame to the 1977 national championship, died Thursday, May 9, 2002, at his Tempe, Ariz.-home, after a long illness. He was 77.  (AP Photo/Red McLendon)

That 1977 team, which opened at No. 3, was Notre Dame’s only eventual national champion ranked in the AP preseason top five. In the seven-plus decades of the AP preseason poll, the other Irish national champions opened sixth (1966), eighth (1973) and 13th (1988).

Under Freeman’s three most recent predecessors – Brian Kelly (2010), Weis (2005) and Tyrone Willingham (2002) -- Notre Dame was unranked entering their debut seasons. Bob Davie’s 1997 Irish were ranked 11th in the preseason poll before tumbling to a 7-6 finish.

Gerry Faust, whose 1981 Irish opened at No. 3 before finishing 5-6, was the last Notre Dame coach before Freeman to start his tenure with a top-five preseason ranking.

Lou Holtz (1986) and Ara Parseghian (1964) also started with unranked teams, while Devine’s debut in 1975 came with a No. 10 preseason ranking.

Mike Berardino covers Notre Dame football for NDInsider.com and the South Bend Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBerardino.