Notre Dame began the season unranked in the AP Poll. They were preseason #24 in the Coach’s Poll. They are one win away from playing for the National Championship, and two wins away from a historical rise in the polls.
How uncommon is that? Very.
In the BCS era, Auburn is the lowest ranked team to win a title, entering the 2010 season at #22 in the AP Poll. Only 4 times in 14 seasons did the eventual champ emerge from outside the top ten. In 2000 Oklahoma was ranked #19, LSU in 2003 was ranked #15, and Ohio State was #13 in 2002.
Only three additional teams since 1984, Notre Dame in 1988 (13th) and Michigan in 1997 (14th) and Georgia Tech in 1990 (unranked), have won the national title starting outside of the top 10. And the Yellow Jackets didn’t claim the AP title in 1990, Colorado did. Georgia Tech split and won the Coach’s Poll.
But in back-2-back years in 1983 and 1984 college football featured a pair of shockers. The 1984 BYU Cougars and the 1983 Miami Hurricanes are the only champs to start the year outside of the AP Top 25 and finish on top since 1982.
The Irish, of all teams, could become the most shocking champion in the sport in the last 25 years with just a couple more wins.