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Irish ascendant

Shhh. Listen. You hear that?

It's the faint sound, growing louder, of all the haters, doubters and otherwise knee-jerk Notre Dame de-mythologizers muttering the word "overrated" as the Irish check in at No. 5 this week in the Associated Press poll.

I can't say if they're right or not, bias or no bias. What I can say is the Irish belong where they are -- No. 5 -- as much as anyone else in this still-young season.

They have, after all, beaten three teams now that are or have been ranked at one time or another this fall. And, yes, two of those teams are from the Big Ten, which has been exposed as something less than a powerhouse these days.

But Saturday night, they took down a Stanford team that has acquitted itself more than honorably in the Pac-12, which no one views as a 98-pound weakling. And they did it by out-physicaling the physical Cardinal, stuffing them down on the goal line with the game on the line in overtime.

The Stand, no doubt, will now join the rich tapestry that comprises Notre Dame football. More than that, though, it was another piece of evidence that the Irish defense is no paper tiger, but has every bit the legitimacy of any of defense in its present company -- including No.1 Alabama, which, unlike Notre Dame, has fattened up on a couple of Directional Techs this season.

In their last five games, the Irish "D" has given up six field goals. That's it. No one has scored an offensive touchdown against them since Purdue did it almost six weeks ago -- and none of this has happened because they were playing a bunch of Northwest Southeastern Whatchamacallit U's.

So hate on, haters. But if you want to call them overrated, especially on the defensive side of the football, you'll have to do it somewhere else.

Ben Smith's blog.