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Notre Dame returns to top 25 polls

Douglas Farmer | Sunday, November 13, 2011

LANDOVER, Md. — Notre Dame jumped into the polls for the first time since the preseason Sunday. The current three-game winning streak landed the Irish as No. 24 in the AP Top 25, and No. 25 in the USA Today coaches’ poll.

“I think when you get ranked you’re playing better obviously,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said Sunday. “We started 0-and-2, and to be ranked this late in the season means we’ve played better football since that 0-and-2 start.”

Four Notre Dame opponents finish higher than the Irish in the AP poll: No. 8 Stanford, No. 12 Michigan State, No. 18 USC and No. 20 Michigan.

What’s a sack?

For the first time in nearly five complete games, Notre Dame gave up a sack Saturday, and then it gave up two more. Irish sophomore quarterback Tommy Rees was last sacked against Pittsburgh, a span of 195 pass attempts between the losses of yards.

“It was just a matter of time,” Kelly said. “When you’re throwing the football as much as we do at times, and they’re a pretty good front.”

Rees, meet Theismann

Legendary Notre Dame quarterback Joe Theismann spoke at a pep rally on the National Mall on Friday night, receiving cheers from Redskins fans who remember his NFL days.

Come Saturday, Theismann’s name became relevant again, when Rees tied his mark of 31 career touchdown passes, good for sixth in Irish history.

At his current rate, Rees would rank one notch above Theismann in career winning percentage. The statistic necessitates a minimum of 20 starts, and Rees only has 13, but his .846 winning percentage would rank fifth among Notre Dame quarterbacks, just beating Theismann’s .840. John Lujack leads the rankings with a record of 20-1-1, good for .932.