Sat Aug 22 04:44pm EDT
You have to really work at it to listen to Lou Holtz in midseason form, when weeks of shouting at games have taken their toll and his voice devolves into a kind of gruesome, gravelly Daffy Duck simulacrum. In August, though, his tones are dulcet and his articulation smooth, which is why we're absolutely certain we just heard him predict a Florida-Notre Dame title game.
What apart from his usual blatant homerism would possess Dr. Lou to make such a risky pick? Pragmatism, believe it or not. He doesn't think Notre Dame will be the No. 2 team in the country. He does, however, estimate it'll be "the best team in the stadium" for most of the year thanks to, yes, an extremely favorable schedule.
No denying the Irish will have an easier path to tread to January than in recent years, but it's where Holtz starts insinuating the Irish may give USC a game when they meet on October 17 that we start to roll our eyes. Yes, USC's roster losses this offseason are sizeable. Whether that creates enough of a swing for Notre Dame to overcome last year's 35-point curb-stomping remains to be seen. And for all the talk of hordes of returning Irish starters ... those are the same starters that lost to Syracuse at home last year, no? Improvement is to be expected, of course, but it would be foolish to expect USC to do nothing more than tread water in the meantime.
At least part of Holtz's brain is still connected to reality: The other half of his championship pairing was selected No. 1 in the just-released AP poll by the largest margin in history:
Florida received 58 of the 60 first-place votes, or 96.7 percent. Texas got the other first-place votes.
The previous highest percentage of first-place votes for the AP preseason poll, which started in 1950, was 95.4 percent for USC in 2007.
The full poll is available here for your perusal. Notre Dame hovers at No. 23, for now. Will it run the table with the ease Dr. Lou expects? Florida fans can always hope.
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