The Fighting Irish are 8-0 and on the cusp of greatness. They have four games left, starting with Pitt this Saturday, and right now three of those contests are likely to find the Irish as heavy favorites. Luckily, this football team has the best weapons to combat some of the historical heartbreaking moments that most Irish fans remember all too well.
That's right, youth. Not inexperience, but youth is the more general term, as several of these kids playing are only 17 to 23 year old. In the grand scheme of things they're so wildly young, odds are the ancient history of Notre Dame football is nowhere near as fresh in their minds. They merely remember the Notre Dame they know, a team that they helped raise out of mediocrity on the field.
Yes, guys like Manti Te'o, Theo Riddick, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Zeke Motta recall the 2009 season. A year that saw them lose to Navy. More players on the current roster remember the 2010 losses to Navy and Tulsa that would serve as embarrassing moments.
However, let's also remember that Notre Dame wasn't exactly considered an elite team when they were doing this losing. So, while plenty of players know what it is like to lose to teams that shouldn't even be in a game with this Notre Dame squad, they also know what it is like to not be a very good team themselves.
This team has been through plenty. They have lost games. They have been a plebeian in the class system of college football. An also ran. A mediocre squad. They know that losing to teams you just think you're better than is a real thing.
So, when folks bring up the 2002 loss to Boston College, these guys don't have much of a historical reference point. It's a game that was played before they were highly touted recruits in their respective towns. When the 1996 loss to Air Force is mentioned as a letdown during a Notre Dame season, don't expect much response. There are guys on this roster who were born in 1994 and 1995, chances are they don't remember.
Do you think youth is an asset for this Irish team?
If you get into the 1993 Boston College or 1990 Stanford game, the chances it impacts them are even more minimal. Fans absolutely remember these moments. Games that added an extra loss to the Irish's efforts when they could have finished a game better and a little higher in the rankings.
While fans are hoping to avoid the repeat, for these kids and this coaching staff, there is nothing significant about it. They didn't lose those games. They didn't have their heart broken watching those games. As we've said many a time, this is a team that's been through the fire to emerge on the positive side of things.
Youth is their biggest asset. Not only do these games not hit them in the gut the way they do fans; but these kids have lived through plenty of humbling events. Living the more recent history of Notre Dame football is enough to make you not want to go back. They know what it's like to be .500. They know what it's like to sit and look at the rankings and wish they were a part of them. They know that when they walk out on to the field they can be sent home with a loss.
Going through tough times makes you stronger. These kids don't need the history lesson, they've got the scars from the last few seasons of Irish football to remind them of where they want to go.