Entering the 2009 football season, The Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team is coming off of two seasons of football that are the worst in school history. The once proud team has become a punching bag and the target of ESPN analysts such as Mark May.
Last Christmas Eve I was sitting at the bar at Oakland International airport, waiting to board a flight to Orange County to be with my girlfriend's family for the holidays. I was hesitant to ask the bartender to turn the Hawaii Bowl on ESPN because they hadn't won a Bowl game in years, but being the loyal fan that I am, I asked the bartender to turn the game on.
What I saw was a bright spot to the end of a mediocre season. The fighting Irish Throttled Hawaii 49-21 and was a battle cry to take into the off-season. I sat at the bar alone, celebrated my Fighting Irish victory and took multiple patron shots.
This season is make or break for Charlie Weis. He is under the gun and needs not only a BCS birth, but also a BCS victory. Notre Dame's 2009 schedule is pretty soft. The games against Michigan Stat, Boston College, and USC will be the toughest games of the year.
2009 Notre Dame Football Schedule
Sept. 5 NEVADA
Sept. 12 at Michigan
Sept. 19 MICHIGAN STATE
Sept. 26 at Purdue
Oct. 3 WASHINGTON
Oct. 10 Open Date
Oct. 17 USC
Oct. 24 BOSTON COLLEGE
Oct. 31 vs. Washington State (at San Antonio, Texas)
Nov. 7 NAVY
Nov. 14 at Pittsburgh
Nov. 21 CONNECTICUT
Nov. 28 at Stanford
So, if Notre Dame plays to their ability and executes like they are capable of, then they should be 5-0 when they have a showdown with USC in South Bend. Notre Dame won a huge off-season battle when they signed Manti Te'o. He will contribute immediately to the Irish Defense.
Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate are projected to be a vicious tandem this year, and Armando Aleen will be a threat out of the back field.
The key this season will be defense. They had no pass rush and their defensive backfield got burned way to much. Raeshon McNeil, Kyle McCarthy, Robert Blanton, and free safety Harrison Smith must play more aggressive.
The 2009 Notre Dame Fighting Irish have all the ingredients for a special season. They can definitely go undefeated. They could run the table. They have gotten stronger while rivals like USC have gotten weaker.
Remember, USC lost their over-joyus Quarterback and their entire linebacker corps, which was, to put it lightly, scary, but they are gone now and that leaves them vulnerable.
2009 will be a success. If not, Charlie Weis will be gone and the team will be back at square one. I am confident Notre Dame will get the job done and restore glory to a once elite football program.
The critics of Charlie Weis will owe him an apology and he will be given the breathing room he deserves.