The AP poll is out and as I mentioned yesterday, I correctly hit 9 of the top ten teams once again and I am now 143 out of 150,  95.3% picking the AP Top Ten teams SIX MONTHS in advance in February!

            This blog is about the team that missed. Last year my projected AP Top 10 team than missed out was Oregon and if not for a blown 31-10 third quarter lead vs Oregon St they would have finished in the top ten. Baylor who the AP voters put at #10 had a losing season.

            To qualify for My Surprise team list that I list in the magazine a team has to be a NON-Top 10 team that I think has a shot at making the playoff (see page 33-35 of magazine). Since I projected Notre Dame to make the AP Top 10, I could not select them as a Surprise Team. Since the Irish are only #13 in the AP poll, they now qualify to be a Surprise team and I do think they are a legitimate candidate to make the playoff.

            My #1A Surprise team is the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. As mentioned, the only reason this year was that I thought they would make the AP Preseason Top Ten. Marcus Freeman is now a second-year head coach. He opened his head coaching career 0-3 losing a bowl game, a tight loss at Ohio St and then an upset home loss to Marshall. Freeman then went 9-1 down the stretch beating #16 BYU, #16 Syracuse, thrashing #5 Clemson 35-14, and winning the bowl game vs #20 South Carolina.

            Freeman knows defense and last year his defense allowed just 329 yards per game last season and held foes to 74 ypg below their season average (#14). This year the Irish have eight starters back on defense with my #18 rated Defensive Line, #7 set of Linebackers and #9 Defensive Backs. The Irish have a top ten defense.

            Last year Notre Dame blocked seven punts and finished #7 in my Special Teams rankings. While they lose their K and P from last year they brought in some solid transfers including strong legged K Spencer Shrader from USF and P Ben Krimm from Penn. I still rank them #7 in my Special Teams rankings.

            The offense dipped a little last year as they lost their starting QB to injury early and played with the backup most of the year. This year they add in Sam Hartman who I consider one of the top college QB’s and he is working behind my #16 rated Offensive line and has my #10 set of RB’s behind him. The offense should improve on the 31.8 ppg of 2022.

            The schedule is not easy but does set up well. They gave Ohio St a tougher than expected game in Columbus last year and now get Ohio St in South Bend with the Buckeyes breaking in a new QB early in the season in their first real road test. They host USC and the home team is 8-1 SU in the series and get the Trojans in potentially chilly mid-October. They do have to play Clemson on the road, but an 11-1 Notre Dame would make the playoff this year.

            Get your Hard Copy of the magazine out and in pen write Notre Dame as my #1A Surprise team!         

This has been updated in the digital version and keep in mind the digital version is updated thru the month of September with any transfers put on the pages and all players that are out for the year circled in the magazine. Get yourself up to date with the digital version right now CLICK HERE.


Get Phil’s Extended data and Plus your odds. Click on Learn more to see exactly how Phil uses Phil Steele Plus. FCS only access also available.