Davie baffled by Notre Dame rank in polls
By TIM CASEY
Notre Dame can look at its 34-30 victory over Oklahoma on Oct. 2 as the turning point of the season.
In that game, the Irish came back from a 30-14 deficit with 10 minutes left in the third quarter. A despondent running game was re-established. After committing 14 turnovers in the first four games, the offense responded with an error-free game.
Jarious Jackson had the game of his career, throwing for 276 yards and rushing for 107 more on the ground.
Since that game, the Irish have gone on to record two victories in a row for the first time all year. They stand at 4-3 on the season, with all three games that they lost not being decided until the final drive of the game. There's a new sense of confidence among players, coaches and fans.
But glancing at this week's Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches polls shows Oklahoma rated ahead of Notre Dame. After beating then-10th ranked Texas A&M a week ago, the Sooners vaulted to 24th in the Associated Press poll and 26th in the ESPN/USA Today poll. The Irish are 26th in the Associated Press poll and 32nd in the coaches poll.
Bob Davie is having trouble comprehending the intricacies of the weekly polls.
"It shakes you up a little bit when you see someone rated ahead of you that you beat and you are not sure they played quite as tough a schedule," Davie said at Tuesday's press conference. "The way the strength of schedule is computed, it's supposed to be simply on how many wins and losses your opponent has and their opponent has. I don't think that is accurate."
So far this season, Notre Dame's three losses have come against top 25 teams. When they faced Oklahoma, the Sooners were ranked in both polls. Arizona State and USC are perennial national powerhouses.
Of Oklahoma's first three wins of the season, only Louisville (5-3) has a winning record. In their first game of the season, Oklahoma beat Division 1-AA Indiana State. Indiana State is currently 2-5 in the Gateway conference. Baylor, who Oklahoma beat 41-10 for their second win sits at 1-6 going into Saturday's game at Kansas State.
"I'm not picking on Oklahoma," Davie said. "I am just using them as an example. We all know this system is not infallible."
The Irish faithful can sympathize with Davie. Through the years, the Irish have seen first-hand the contradiction of the polls.
The most noticeable discrepancy occurred at the end of the 1993 season. An 11-1 Notre Dame team was denied a national championship by Florida State. The 12-1 Seminoles had lost 31-24 to the Irish in the "Game of the Century" on Nov. 13. The Irish lost to Boston College a week later but rebounded with a 24-21 victory over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
In the meantime, top-ranked Florida State beat second-ranked Nebraska on a last second field goal. But less than two months after losing to Notre Dame, Bobby Bowden's team was awarded the national title.
Four years earlier, in 1989, Miami (11-1 on the season) won the national title over Notre Dame (12-1) based on the Hurricanes 27-10 defeat of the Irish earlier in the season.
Though he has never been denied a national title by the polls, Davie still believes that the rankings, particularly the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, are far from perfect.
"Obviously the coaches are tough on us," Davie said. "We are usually down there on the coaches poll."
Each week the coaches get a chance to vote in the ESPN/USA Today poll. Though they may never see the teams that they are ranking play, they still have a major say in determining the eventual national champion.
Davie believes that because of the coaches' commitment to their own teams, their evaluation of other teams is flawed.
"Let's face it, on Saturday night [when they vote for the poll], coaches at best will just get the score of the games [of other teams]," Davie said. "And so much is just based on won-loss records and who won and who lost. It is tough enough to evaluate your own team — how good you are — without trying to evaluate someone else's team. It's a tough process."
In order to move up in the polls, Davie has a simple plan for the rest of the season: Win every game.
"It will all equal out at the end," Davie said. "If you play well and win, you will end up climbing your way back up. The reality is when you lose games early, you are fighting an uphill fight to get back in it. I still think we have a chance of climbing up [the polls]."
All Sports Stories for Wednesday, October 27, 1999