NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame was ranked 16th in the Associated Press preseason poll that was released Saturday morning. It marked the highest preseason ranking for the Irish in the AP poll since 2006 when they opened No. 2. In fact, Notre Dame has not been ranked higher in an AP poll since Dec. 9, 2006 when it was No. 11. Just over two weeks ago, Notre Dame was ranked No. 18 in the 2011 USA Today preseason coaches’ poll.
It marked the 18th time in the last 25 seasons that the Irish have been ranked in the AP preseason balloting, with all but two of those appearances coming in the top 20. Notre Dame has appeared in 50 of the possible 62 AP preseason polls dating back to 1950 (the advent of the preseason AP poll), which ranks fourth-best all-time. Ohio State (58), Oklahoma (53) and USC (51) are the only schools with more preseason appearances. In all, the Irish have appeared in 713 of the possible 1,022 AP polls dating back to the inaugural poll in 1936. Only the Buckeyes (786) and Michigan (761) have more appearances.
Irish second-year head coach Brian Kelly entered each of his three years at Cincinnati absent from the AP preseason poll only to finish those respective seasons (2007, 2008 and 2009) No. 17, No. 17 and No. 8, respectively. Notre Dame nearly achieved a similar feat in 2010 – Kelly’s first year with the Irish. Notre Dame registered its longest winning streak to close a season since 1992 and routed Miami (Fla.) in the 2010 Hyundai Sun Bowl, but just fell short of the top 25 in the season’s final rankings.
In addition to the victory over the Hurricanes, the Irish registered a convincing 28-3 victory over 15th-ranked Utah. The triumph was Notre Dame’s largest over an Associated Press top 20 opponent in 14 years. The Irish then closed the regular season by snapping an eight-game losing streak to archrival USC. Kelly also became the first Notre Dame football coach to record a bowl victory in his first season on the Irish sidelines.