Saturday morning, I was reading my paper, doing those early morning "man" rituals, and I just happened to stumble onto the top 25. Like an old friend, I greeted the top 25 with a big smile. I forgot what it looked like, so orderly, and, of course, I disagreed with a number of the rankings per usual.
It then hit me. I had no idea who was in the top 25. I couldn't even name the top five. I had no idea Georgia was ranked third (although that will change this week). I realized I hadn't been paying attention to the top 25 since the beginning of the season.
And then the reality of the situation hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn't know the top 25 because Notre Dame hasn't been near the top 25 for quite some time.
Memory lane then opened in the back of my mind. I remembered waiting early Sunday, glued to ESPN in anticipation for the latest poll rankings. I just knew the Irish would get hosed, and they almost always did.
The top 25 was our nemesis--it wasn't Michigan or USC. It was those biased voters trying to keep the Irish from getting the big prize.
My how things have changed in a decade.
Instead of trying to climb into the top five, the Irish are now trying to climb into the top 25, and still a ways off at this point, even at 4-2.
A 4-2 Irish team would certainly be ranked in the glory years, but the Irish would have the respect of the voters, even at 4-2.
4-2 for this Irish team won't buy the Irish a spin on the top 25 wheel this week, and it might not even at 6-2, we'll see.
The Irish will now go on the road to face a motivated Navy team next weekend, and they have the opportunity to avenge a number of disappointing defeats at the hands of Boston College the following week in South Bend. What if the Irish beat both teams? What do we actually know about this Irish football team?
After Saturday's victory I'm still confused as to how good this Irish team is? Are they top 25 material? They could've easily lost the game on Saturday, and what would their season look like had they lost? What would've happened then? Thus, the problem as I see it.
Listen to a Tyrone Willingham press conference or interview and the word consistency will come up more often than not. The third-year coach talks about consistency constantly, but for whatever reason, his team doesn't play with consistency.
The Irish will play one game and leave you thinking they can play with anyone in the country--and then the next you'll be wondering how they've won four games this year.
Irish fans see glimpses of a potent offense, but then they see the same offense limp along the following week.
The Irish run well one week, and then Irish backs can't find a running lane the next.
Quarterback Brady Quinn with throw for over 400 yards in one week, and then complete 11-of-24 passes for 173 yards and no touchdowns the next.
The Irish defense will destroy all comers one week, and then get picked apart like they did against Purdue.
One this has been consistent for the Irish. Notre Dame continues to start slow under Willingham. The Irish head coach has coached 31 games so far in his tenure, and the Irish have led just six times in 31 games after the first period.
The Irish have been blanked 13 times after the first quarter, and held to three points or less 19 times in 31 games under Willingham. The Irish have only scored more than seven points five times during Willingham's tenure.
Playing behind makes both sides of the ball change their game plans. As a coach, you'd like to dictate the action instead of reacting to it. The Irish will continue to struggle under Willingham, or any coach, if they continue to play behind each week.
I see a lot of positives with this Irish team, but I also see the same lingering problems that plague this team. Those lingering problems continue to hamstring the success of the Irish. Until they are fixed, expect the roller coaster ride to continue.
The inconsistency of the Irish is reason the Irish won't be ranked this week and might not be even if they win their next two games.
Until Notre Dame can put it all together, for more than one game, Irish fans--and the voters--will all be wondering how good are the Irish?