The Times' Chris Dufresne unveils his preseason top 25, one day (and team) at a time:
No. 25 Notre Dame
Wait! Don't turn the page!
This ranking is not a joke.
Friends, Romans, Irishmen . . . lend me your (3-9) year.
Understanding that the program may still be a year or two (or four) away from complete recovery, it seemed silly to summarily dismiss the four-leaf clovers following one dyspeptic season that only called into question the story that Charlie Weis once scored a perfect 1,600 on his SAT.
One question we know wasn't on the exam:
You're playing Navy at home and the score is 28-28 late in the fourth quarter. You've beaten Navy 43 straight years. You face fourth and eight at Navy's 24. As a coach, you should:
B: Try to win the game in regulation with a field goal.
C: Call time out and order pizza.
D: Go for it.
Correct answer: (B).
Unfortunately, Weis chose (D), and Navy won in triple overtime.
Genius does not throw true freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen behind an offensive line that allows a school-record 58 sacks.
Genius does not lose to USC and Michigan in the same year by the same score, 38-0.
Smart people learn from their mistakes, though, and there's no doubt Weis is a wise guy. He's from New Jersey.
So it is with caveats and qualifiers and a kazoo that Notre Dame, and not Navy, debuts as anchor team in Rankman's preseason top 25.
Notre Dame really could pull this off. The schedule includes San Diego State, Syracuse, Stanford and Washington, so there's four wins right there -- one more than last year.
Clausen lived to become a sophomore, his arm is stronger, and the experts keep telling us about all these terrific incoming recruiting classes.
Weis got his comeuppance last year. The school featured his face in the media guide surrounded by the likes of Rockne, Leahy, Holtz, Parseghian and Devine.
None of those guys finished 3-9 at Notre Dame.
Weis won't dare try it again.