The preseason AP poll was not overly kind to Georgia or Notre Dame. Georgia was ranked 15th in the country, while Notre Dame was ranked, well, not at all. Indeed, the Irish were in the “others receiving votes” category.
Eight games into the season, however, the rankings have changed drastically. Georgia (8-0) was No. 1 in the playoff committee’s first set of rankings, which were unveiled Tuesday, while Notre Dame (7-1) was No. 3.
So, which program did the experts underestimate more in the preseason?
“I think it had to be Notre Dame,” CBS Sports college football analyst Rick Neuheisel said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “(Georgia) is one of the most fertile states for talent in the country. When we’re asked where do the best players come from, we’ll say Florida, we’ll say Texas and we’ll say California – because they’re the biggest. But in the last NFL Draft, 29 players – the most of any state – were selected from the state of Georgia. The problem was none of them went to the University of Georgia. So Kirby Smart, as he’s there, I think we all realize he’s going to start to circle the fences and he’s going to get guys in.”
Even Georgia native Jake Fromm was an Alabama commit before following Smart to Athens. Fromm, a true freshman, has completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 1,263 yards, 13 touchdowns and four interceptions this season.
“That will make that Georgia/Alabama game, if it comes to fruition in the SEC Championship Game, even that much more exciting, as Saban is looking over there at the kid who had committed to him,” Neuheisel said. “But Georgia is a very solid program.”
So is Notre Dame, but the Irish went 4-8 last year, with their only wins coming against Nevada, Syracuse, Miami and Stanford.
This year, however, the Irish have reinvented themselves. They rank sixth in the country with 317.9 rushing yards per game and rank tenth in scoring defense (16.1 points per game).
“Notre Dame, coming off a 4-8 season, two brand-new coordinators, an untested quarterback in Brandon Wimbush – there were lots of questions to answer for Brian Kelly,” Neuheisel said. “For them to find themselves at the No. 3 hole after releasing the first college football playoff poll is outstanding.”
Wimbush, a redshirt sophomore, has completed 51.5 percent of his passes for 1,007 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions this season. He has also rushed 89 times for 529 yards (5.9 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns.
The Irish host Wake Forest (5-3) this Saturday, while Georgia hosts South Carolina (6-2). Both games start at 3:30 p.m. ET.