Stir the echoes. Grab a clover. Prod über-fan
Yes, Notre Dame, the same team that won 10 games the past two seasons, that marched to an abysmal 3-9 record in 2007 (that campaign, the worst in Notre Dame's 120-plus-year history, was so forgettable the school
Those last two seasons have landed coach
Seriously, take a look at this schedule:
Someone, whether Touchdown Jesus or the scheduling gods, has blessed the Irish with a slate tailor-made for a coach trying to regain a school's confidence and a program desperate to show the nation it still matters. The Trojans are the only forgivable loss on the schedule; that leaves 10-11 completely winnable games, more than enough to get the Irish into the mix for a BCS at-large berth. Weis' job could very well depend on such success.
Of course, the schedule isn't the only intriguing thing about this Irish team. If the Hawaii Bowl serves as any indication, Weis will again carry the "genius" label he so smugly arrived in South Bend with in 2005. Calling plays from the pressbox, Weis directed an offense that set eight Irish bowl game records. The performance, in which
Weis must have listened to the good doctor, though, because when offensive coordinator
Weis grabbing the offensive reins wasn't the only significant shake-up this offseason.
The stage is unquestionably set for the Irish. If they return to a major bowl this season it won't be on the strength of their name alone -- unlike their last two BCS appearances, mirages in which they lost to Ohio State by 14 in the '06 Fiesta Bowl and to LSU by 27 in the 2007 Sugar Bowl.
The Weis era opened in the worst possible way, setting the bar deceptively high and creating the perception that Notre Dame was about to regain its elite status. We soon found out the truth: Those
Thanks to two straight top 10 recruiting classes, that foundation is finally in place. Nine true freshmen made starts in '07. Last year those youngsters took their lumps, blowing double-digit leads three times and losing two games (against Pitt and Syracuse) on missed kicks. Thanks to that youth movement, though, the Irish now have 11 players with at least one season of starting experience on the roster plus six more with two or more seasons under their belts. Always high on talent, this group has finally learned how to play and how to win and, most importantly, they've learned those lessons together. It's a progression that should spell danger for other teams.
If this is truly Weis' make-or-break season, he couldn't have asked for better timing. But on the off chance '09 ends with another Christmas trip to Hawaii, he might want to purchase a one-way ticket.