A Look Back At Notre Dame's Preseason Rankings Under Brian Kelly

Bryan Driskell

The preseason polls have yet to come out, but if the 2020 preseason magazines and power rankings are any indication, Notre Dame could rank anywhere from No. 7 to No. 12 nationally in the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Polls.

That has been Notre Dame’s range for much of the last half decade. Before those polls are released let’s take a look at where Notre Dame has been ranked in the preseason and how the Irish have finished.

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Diff. refers to season-ending difference in the USA Today Coaches Poll


Kelly’s first squad at Notre Dame was unranked in the preseason polls, and after finishing 8-5 the Irish ended the season unranked. Notre Dame fell to 4-5 after back-to-back losses to Navy and Tulsa, but a four-game win-streak to end the season raised expectations for the 2011 season.


Notre Dame began the 2011 season ranked 16th in the Associated Press Poll and 18th in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Irish dropped out immediately after losing the home opener to South Florida, and the Irish fell to 0-2 after a loss to Michigan.

The Irish won eight of their next nine games and jumped back into the Top 25, but a regular season ending loss to Stanford and a Champs Sports Bowl defeat at the hands of Florida State resulted in Notre Dame finishing unranked.


A strong finish to the 2010 resulted in Notre Dame beginning the 2011 season ranked, but a poor finish in 2011 resulted in the Irish beginning the 2012 campaign unranked. Kelly’s squad responded with a 12-0 regular season, climbing all the way to No. 1 in the final regular season rankings.

Notre Dame finished the season ranked 4th (AP) and 3rd (USA Today) after a 42-14 BCS title game loss to Alabama.


Notre Dame began the 2013 season ranked 14th and 11th, but a 41-30 loss at Michigan in week two dropped the Irish the 21st. Notre Dame dropped out of the polls three weeks later after a 35-21 home loss to Oklahoma.

Four straight wins allowed the Irish to climb back into the rankings, but Notre Dame dropped two of its final three games of the regular season and fell out of the polls. The Irish finished ranked 20th and 24th after a bowl victory over Rutgers.


Notre Dame began the season ranked 17th in both polls and climbed all the way up to #5 after starting the season with six straight wins. The Irish dropped a hard-fought 31-27 game to then #2 Florida State and fell to 10th the following week. Four-straight regular season losses to end the season dropped Notre Dame completely out of the polls.

The Irish ended the season with a 31-28 victory over LSU in the Music City Bowl, but the 8-5 record resulted in the Irish finishing the season unranked.


Notre Dame began the season ranked 11th in both polls, and Notre Dame’s 10-3 record resulted in the Irish finishing the season ranked 11th (AP) and 12th (USA) in the final polls. Notre Dame’s three losses that season were all to opponents that finished the season ranked in the Top 5 of the final polls.

Navy was the only Irish opponent that Notre Dame defeated to finish the season ranked.


Notre Dame began the season ranked in the Top 10 for the first time in Kelly’s tenure. A 50-47 season-opening loss to Texas dropped Notre Dame down to 18th, but the Irish fell completely out of the polls after a 36-28 loss at Michigan State. Notre Dame finished the 2016 season with a 4-8 record and unranked in both poll for the second time in three seasons.


The 4-8 season resulted in the Irish entering the 2017 season unranked in both polls. A 49-16 win over Temple to start the season got the Irish into the polls but they fell out after a week two loss to Georgia. Notre Dame climbed all the way up to #3 in the polls after rattling off seven straight wins, which included blowout victories over Michigan State, USC and NC State.

Notre Dame lost two of its final three games of the season to fall to 14th, but a Citrus Bowl victory over LSU jumped Notre Dame up to 11th in both polls.


Notre Dame began the season ranked 12th in the AP and 11th in the Coaches Poll. The Irish climbed all the way to #3 in the final regular season rankings after a perfect regular season. Notre Dame earned its first and only College Football Playoff berth and finished the season ranked 5th after a semi-final loss to Clemson.

It marked Notre Dame’s second Top 5 finish of the Kelly era.


Notre Dame began the season ranked in the Top 10 for just the second time of Kelly’s tenure. A 5-1 start to the season kept the Irish ranked in the Top 10, but the Irish dropped to 16th after a devastating 45-14 loss at Michigan.

Notre Dame won its final six games of the season against five opponents that would finish the season unranked. The result was Notre Dame finishing outside of the Top 10 despite an 11-2 record. Notre Dame’s only win over an opponent that finished ranked was a November win over Navy.

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Comments (1)
No. 1-1

I grew up watching ND winning championships, I was at the games in the 70's and 80's I got to watch three national championship teams in person play. We use to be the brand man. If we can just shut out all the noise we could win this year.