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Take Two: Does Notre Dame deserve lofty ranking?

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position

Michael Young
Michael Young (AP)

Take Two returns with a daily offering tackling a handful of issues in the college football landscape. Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney lays out the situation and then receives takes from Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell and a local expert from the Rivals.com network of team sites.

MORE TAKE TWO: Is Ed Orgeron the right fit at LSU after all? | Can UGA pull Clay Webb out of Alabama?

THE STORYLINE

Notre Dame is undefeated so far this season with an impressive win over Michigan in the opener followed by victories over Ball State and Vanderbilt.

But do the Irish deserve their No. 8 ranking in the AP Top 25 poll? Coach Brian Kelly’s club has not beaten any of their first three opponents by double digits. Notre Dame averages only about 23 points per game and quarterbacks Brandon Wimbush and Ian Book have each only thrown one touchdown apiece so far. The Irish are not in the top 50 nationally in rushing or passing offense, nor are they top 50 nationally in total defense despite giving up just over 16 points per game.

There will be some challenges coming up. Going to Wake Forest this weekend is no cakewalk any longer. Stanford and Virginia Tech are on the schedule. Other top contests could make things interesting in October and November.

Notre Dame keeps winning but it has not been impressive. Does its ranking match the play we’ve seen on the field?

FIRST TAKE: LOU SOMOGYI, BLUEANDGOLD.COM

“There are three teams in college football that have clearly separated themselves over the past five years, and one for a decade: Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State. A fourth, Georgia, is on the threshold of joining them, but in fairness you need to judge them over several years, too. A fifth, Oklahoma, can also be on that next tier.

“After that, six through 15 or even 20 is quite fluid, and I think from a roster standpoint Notre Dame is in that category with Penn State, Wisconsin, Stanford, Washington. I thought Michigan could be a darkhorse to be in that next tier, too, so to defeat it is definitely a plus.

“If one of those top five gets clipped and ND keeps improving, it has a chance to be in the playoff hunt going into November just as it has been four of the last six years. Are they better than Northwestern, which lost to Akron at home and scored only seven vs. Duke? Sure. Are they better than FSU, which has 10 points in two ACC games? Yeah, I think so. Are they better than USC, which they hammered, 49-14, and now has scored three points against Stanford and was outscored 34-0 the final three quarters by Texas? I think so.

“None of that means jack when the teams line up, but there is nobody on the schedule I see that has a better roster than Notre Dame. So yes, I think with continued improvement it can be a playoff contender. But no, it’s not a ‘program’ at this stage like the top three, four or five I noted.”

SECOND TAKE: MIKE FARRELL, RIVALS.COM

“They worry me a little bit, especially after the Vanderbilt game. Ball State I expected because that’s a letdown game after Michigan, but Vanderbilt is not a very good team and they were taken to the end.

“Wimbush is not a very good passer, he still has not developed that way. So they bring in Book now in certain circumstances so they don’t really have a go-to quarterback that can get them out of trouble if they trail. I’m not sure they’re a legitimate top 10 team because of the quarterback situation.”