October 12, 2009

Weis's Last Stand?

There will, of course, be plenty of discussion of ND-USC in our picks section on Thursday. Nonetheless, considering the importance of this game and, in an attempt to secure some good karma for the Irish, I would like to share my thoughts in a separate post on a day dedicated to Christopher Columbus, an exemplary colonizer and a fine Roman Catholic.

I have been outspoken in my belief that Charlie Weis is not equipped to restore Notre Dame to a championship level. As I have mentioned before, Jack Swarbrick, in my opinion, should have jettisoned Weis at the end of last year rather than allowing him to stick around for one more failed year, irrespective of recruiting concerns or other ancillary issues. Likewise, while I am encouraged by the attitude of the players and certain facets of this team, especially the offense, I would be surprised if Notre Dame won more than 8 games this year. We have played plenty of close games this year and it is reasonable to assume that there will be several more Maalox mashers against teams such as BC (ugh), Pitt, Connecticut, Stanford and perhaps even Navy. Again, this team seems to have heart, but there are only so many close calls that a team can survive.

Despite my prognostication of impending doom, this weekend’s visit from USC has created one final opportunity for Weis to save himself. Considering all of the relevant circumstances, it is not hyperbole to state that this is the most important game for Notre Dame in 15 years. If Weis could somehow find a way to defeat the Trojans, the program will be riding a tidal wave of momentum. With a victory, the Irish will vault into the top 15 of the polls and Jimmy Clausen will likely become the front runner for the Heisman Trophy. Moreover, given the sheer number of junior and senior recruits that will be at the game this weekend, a classic Notre Dame moment could inspire plenty of top-flight prospects to play their college football in South Bend. In sum, regardless of how ND got to this position (hint: the administration is chiefly culpable), Weis and company have an enormous chance to correct a litany of missteps in one fell swoop.

As for the game itself, I will refrain from delving into a detailed discussion of the various matchups especially since, as mentioned above, some of our esteemed contributors at WeIsND will perform a deeper analysis later this week. Suffice it to say, however, that the Irish, warts and all, are certainly capable of beating USC. In five games this year, this Notre Dame team has already shown that it has great leadership, plenty of heart and an unflappable poise in the most dire of situations. Furthermore, with a true freshman QB and an inexperienced defense, this is easily the most vulnerable USC team that Pete Carroll has fielded in the Weis era. Finally, notwithstanding its generally deserved reputation as an overly friendly venue to visitors, I am hopeful that Notre Dame Stadium will be a veritable lions den this Saturday.

From a personal standpoint, I have invested an overwhelming amount of time, money, effort and emotion into Notre Dame football and, thus far, all I have received is disappointment and heartbreak. After years and years of trauma, I should know better than to travel out to Notre Dame this weekend. I should also be wise enough to avoid buying into the hype and to suppress any thoughts that Weis can turn things around. In fact, if you asked me right now to predict the winner, I would select USC. Yet when I get to campus, and the beer starts flowing and the excitement starts building, there is no question that I will discard all of my rational thoughts and buy into the belief that Notre Dame will find a way to prevail. For once this time, I'd like for my irrational impulses to be correct.

Go Irish.


Doug said...

Mike, good stuff. I agree. This is a big week for the Irish. Our national reputation is riding on this game. If we win or take them down to the wire, we will start earning some respect. If we get housed, our credibility will be out the door.

I know the new "expectation" is that we have to beat USC, but I'd just be happy to see us play well and have a legitimate chance to win the game in the fourth quarter. And by legitimate, I mean it's 23-20 in the fourth quarter, the crowd is electric, and we're right in it. Not some statistical "victory" where we are close in yards or something, but the game is not in doubt by the end 3rd quarter.

Big week for the Irish. Lots riding on this game. Hope we play our best game of the year.

INCITEmarsh/Mike Marchand '01 said...

I know I sound like a Kool-Aid-swilling fanboy, but I'm totally believing the hype. Between four red-zone field goals and one of the dumbest plays I've ever seen, we spotted Washington 23 points and still won. USC beat them by 3.

I know, I know, that trick never works, but this gives me even more comfort: the defense, maligned as it was, allowed 23 points to Washington. USC allowed the Huskies to score 16. If ND's defense is only a touchdown per game worse than USC's defense, we win, because I certainly think our O is more than a touchdown better than theirs so long as we don't shoot ourselves in the foot.

Which brings me to the intangibles. I would like to have had another game under our belt before making this claim, but I think the two straight goal line stands will prove to be the turning point in ND's season. They may not beat the Trojans on Saturday, but they didn't fight that hard to win just to roll over and croak against USC the way they have the last two years.

I don't really like betting on college games with a point spread, especially when Notre Dame is involved, but they're getting 10 points — I say take it.

But I rather like the idea that Clausen's Cardiac Catholics will steal this one, too. My prediction: 30-28, on a last-second field goal by Nick Tausch.

(Also: Manti Te'o will lead the team in tackles.)