Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football Finishes No. 5 In The Associated Press Top 25 Poll
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Notre Dame Finishes No. 5 In Associated Press Poll

For the second time in three years, 10-2 Notre Dame finished No. 5 in the Associated Press college football poll.

It’s not often such a high rating can be achieved when the final two games of the season saw the Fighting Irish lose by 24 and 17 points. However, this was hardly an ordinary year with the COVID-19 pandemic that had significantly abbreviated campaigns in both the Big Ten and Pac-12, and overall in the sport.

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish football sophomore running back Kyren Williams
Notre Dame earned a split in its two games with No. 3 Clemson this season to earn its top-five ranking. (Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports)

The two defeats came to No. 3 Clemson (34-10) in the ACC Championship and No. 1 Alabama (31-14) in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Rose Bowl.

Notre Dame limited the Crimson Tide to its lowest point total since the end of the 2018 season, and played them closer than No. 2 Ohio State and No. 4 Texas A&M — who lost by identical 52-24 scores to head coach Nick Saban’s juggernaut that captured its sixth national title in the last 12 years.

Alabama vanquished three of the final top five, while Notre Dame and No. 3 Clemson split their games this season. The Irish recorded a 47-40 double-overtime regular season conquest of the Tigers on Nov. 7.

Some other notable data from the top 25, which can be found below:

1. This was the highest finish by a 10-win Notre Dame team since No. 4 in 1992.

That 10-1-1 crew under head coach Lou Holtz ended up No. 4 by winning the last seven games of the season, highlighted by a 28-3 trouncing of 12-0 Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.

2. The No. 5 final placement was the highest by a two-loss Fighting Irish outfit since 1969.

That was the year Notre Dame ended its bowl ban, and at 8-1-1 and ranked No. 9 was matched up with No. 1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl. The Longhorns scored the game-winning touchdown with 1:08 left in the contest, but so impressive were head coach Ara Parseghian’s Fighting Irish that they were elevated up to No. 5 with an 8-2-1 mark.

We should also note that in the 1974 UPI Coaches’ poll, Notre Dame finished No. 4 with a 10-2 record (No. 6 in AP) when in Parseghian’s final game it defeated 11-0 and No. 1-ranked Alabama 13-11 in the Orange Bowl.

3. The No. 5 finish is the sixth at that spot for Notre Dame in the AP’s history that began in 1936.

The others occurred in 1938 (8-1), the three straight in 1967 (8-2), 1968 (7-2-1) and 1969 (8-2-1), and then in 2018 (12-1) after a 30-3 loss in the College Football semifinal Cotton Bowl to Clemson.

4. The No. 5 finish is tied for the second best by the Irish in the last 27 years, or since 1994.

Notre Dame has finished in the top 10 only four times in that span: 2005 (No. 9), 2012 (No. 4), 2018 (No. 5) and 2020 (No. 5). It also placed No. 11 in 1995, 2015 and 2017.

It still has not had consecutive AP top-10 finishes since 1992 (No. 4) and 1993 (No. 2).

However, the four straight top-12 placements in the AP (including No. 12 last year) are a first since the seven straight under Parseghian from 1964-70.

5. In the AP poll’s 85-year history, this is the 25th time the Irish placed among the top five, three of them under Brian Kelly.

The eight national titles — with the most recent coming in 1988 — are the highlight, with five other No. 2 placements.

Final 2021 AP Poll 

1. Alabama (13-0) — 1,525 total points, all 61 first-place votes

2. Ohio State (7-1) —1,463

3. Clemson (10-2) — 1,378

4. Texas A&M (9-1) —1,324

5. Notre Dame (10-2) — 1,279

6. Oklahoma (9-2) — 1,243

7. Georgia (8-2) — 1,144

8. Cincinnati (9-1) —1,074

9. Iowa State (9-3) — 1,035

10. Northwestern (7-2) — 893

11. BYU (11-1) — 862

12. Indiana (6-2) — 773

13. Florida (8-4) — 764

14. Coastal Carolina (11-1) — 725

15. Louisiana (10-1) — 664

16. Iowa (6-2) — 581

17. Liberty (10-1) — 576

18. North Carolina (8-4) — 532

19. Texas (7-3) — 485

20. Oklahoma State (8-3) — 417

21. USC (5-1) — 306

22. Miami (8-3) — 284

23. Ball State (7-1) — 183

24. San Jose State (7-1) — 80

25. Buffalo (6-1) — 51

Italics indicate 2020 Notre Dame opponent

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