ESPN has updated its preseason college football rankings and Notre Dame has fallen down to No. 7 in the rankings. The reason is ESPN jumped Southern Cal up from No. 12 to No. 4 in its rankings thanks to an offseason in which the Trojans poached .... excuse me, recruiting a number of transfers from around the country.
ESPN is banking on USC head coach Lincoln Riley being able to take all these players from all these different teams together to form one cohesive team that will turn the Trojans from the 4-8 team they were a season ago to a College Football Playoff caliber team.
Of course, Notre Dame finished ranked ahead of all the teams the new Trojans played for last season, but the worldwide leader is expecting USC to make a huge leap.
“It seems as if everything wasn't rosy between former Irish coach Brian Kelly and the administration before his unexpected departure to LSU. New coach Marcus Freeman, who was Kelly's former defensive coordinator, can make Irish fans forget about Kelly in a hurry if he can win this season. Notre Dame's offensive line, led by tackles Joe Alt and Blake Fisher, has a chance to be one of the best in the FBS. Bringing back respected offensive line coach Harry Hiestand won't hurt their chances, either. Tyler Buchner and Drew Pyne are locked in a pretty good battle for the starting quarterback job, which might not be decided until late in preseason camp. New defensive coordinator Al Golden has some holes to fill up front. Defensive tackle Aidan Keanaaina tore an ACL in the first spring practice. The Irish quickly signed Harvard transfer (Chris) Smith to help.” - Mark Schlabach
Notre Dame opens the season against Ohio State, who remains at No. 2 in the rankings, right behind No. 1 Alabama. Rounding out the Top 10 is Georgia (No. 3), USC (No. 4), Texas A&M (No. 5), Utah (No. 6), NC State (No. 8), Michigan State (No. 9) and Michigan (No. 10).
The No. 5 ranking for Texas A&M is a bit of a head scratcher. Texas A&M returns fewer starters (10) from its 8-4 squad in 2021 than Notre Dame returns (14) returns from its 11-2 team. Notre Dame has to replace its head coach, but Texas A&M lost standout defensive coordinator Mike Elko and its entire starting defensive line. It too will have a quarterback battle that must be sorted out.
ESPN predicted the Aggies would have a breakout season in 2021 as well, ranking them No. 6 in the preseason ranking. Texas A&M didn't live up to their end of the bargain, falling to 8-4 despite an update win over Alabama. Texas A&M lost by double figures to Arkansas and Ole Miss, and also dropped a home contest to 7-6 Mississippi State and lost to 6-7 LSU in Ed Orgeron's final game with the Tigers.
The interesting note is that Max Johnson led LSU to that victory, but he will now be in a competition for the starting QB job at Texas A&M.
ESPN also had North Carolina (6-7), Iowa State (7-6), USC (4-8) and Indiana (2-10) in its preseason Top 10 last year.
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