September 5, opening day at Notre Dame Stadium, is less than two weeks away. In honor of the 5th it’s time to examine the impact of five uniquely important numbers on the Fighting Irish football program.
Five numbers, five stories, and five things you need to know as the 2009 season approaches.
Break it down and you get 7-4-1 and the Swarbrick Scheduling Plan. Good for Notre Dame, good for NBC, and good for recruiting. The Irish need a favorable schedule in the modern era of national recruiting and coast-to-coast parity.
When Southern Mississippi (DeAndra Brown) and Baylor (Ahmad Dixon) can find top 100 talent in their recruiting classes you have parity. When Michigan loses to Toledo, the SEC is wide open, and any of three members of the Mountain West can earn a Top 15 AP/Coaches poll ranking, you have game-day parity.
The fact that ND can effectively schedule eight home games is a distinct advantage, especially when a Subway-Alum-filled Yankee Stadium brings a once-a-year atmosphere to the Irish and their recruits. That can negate parity and swing momentum in Notre Dame’s direction.
With 7-4-1 Notre Dame will remain wholly relevant, uniquely competitive, and extraordinarily successful if all things go as planned. At least that’s what Jack Swarbrick is counting on.
Notre Dame led eight games going into halftime in 2008. They lost three of those games to North Carolina (up 20-7 at half), Pittsburgh (up 33-16), and Syracuse (up 14-10).
It gets worse.
The Irish were outscored 116 to 101 after halftime in the eight games in which they were leading at the break. That’s a -15 trend, and that’s horrifying.
But it’s the games ND won that make the biggest statistical impact and prove the most important point. The Irish outscored their opponents in the second half by a feeble total of 19 points in the games they won. Take out Hawaii and you have a 12 point edge.
Charlie Weis must cement the victory. He does not have to pour it on. He’s a man of tremendous character and integrity and many have a great deal of respect for him. But you must put your opponent away.
South Bend is not Tuscaloosa. The Irish do not play in the Pac 10. Steve Spurrier would never make it in northern Indiana. Notre Dame doesn’t run up the score but winning by 25 is not dishonorable.
Losing to Syracuse at home, letting Pittsburgh go for 33 in the second half, and watching the Naval Academy nearly pull off one the great comebacks in college football history is criminal.
Win the game, Coach. Win it decisively. We’ll Twitter the apology later.
As in jersey number five, a number that could be on the field for over 90 percent of ND plays in 2009.
It’s time for the offensive number five to break out. No Notre Dame player has put up equally impressive numbers without becoming impressively unequaled like Armando Allen.
College football fantasy rankings have Allen in the 60's. Most fans outside of the 574 area code think he’s a suit. Frat guys cut in front of him at the ND dining halls.
Jimmy can throw, Golden can run, Harrison can tackle, and Mike Anello is the baddest man on the planet not currently ranked by Ring Magazine. We know all that.
Now we need to find out if Armando Allen and his all-purpose yards are like Darius Walker or Darius Rucker.
The defensive number five is Manti Te’o. He’s a legend already and the pressure is on to prove that moniker correct. Te’o impressed the ND coaches this summer by coming in bigger (244 pounds) and stronger than they had expected.
Te’o has impressed ND fans this fall with his excellence of execution in the practice videos and the run-down tackles from behind during scrimmages. Coach Weis is impressed enough to guarantee playing time.
Manti Te’o is a man-child. South Bend could be the promise land. Number five on defense must be ready to impress.
The differential of a 5-to-1 TD-to-interception rate is the national standard, if your name is Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, or Todd Reesing. In other words, it’s the standard for being considered an elite quarterback and a Heisman candidate.
If Jimmy Clausen is to be elite, he must be a 5-to-1 passer. That’s 30 and six. That’s 35 and seven. That’s 40 and eight. That’s possible when you have veteran downfield receivers like Golden Tate and Michael Floyd and sure-handed options in the short game like Kyle Rudolph, Mike Ragone, and Armando Allen out of the backfield.
Both Graham Harrell and Bradford managed 5-to-1 ratios last season while Mark Sanchez and McCoy fell just short at seven-to-two and 4-to-1, respectively.
Notre Dame does not play in the pass-happy Big 12, but many of the defensive backfields they play could, and that’s not a complement to Nevada, Washington, and Washington State.
Jimmy, it’s time to light it up.
That’s the number that separates Charlie Weis from the continued riches of the 10-year contract at Notre Dame and the offensive coordinator job at Rahway High School in North Jersey.
Finish 9-3 and Notre Dame goes to the Gator Bowl in sunny Florida.
Finish 8-4 and Notre Dame goes to the Roady’s Truck Stop Humanitarian Bowl in Boise.
Of course 11-1 or a Holtz-inspired (and predicted) run to the national championship game would guarantee a statue.
But until that happens let’s focus on 9-3 and see if Coach Weis will be a topic of conversation for Blue and Gold followers around the country next August. If it’s 8-4 the conversation will take a dramatic turn away from a once promising Notre Dame head coach.
Numbers never lie and games aren’t played on paper. It's time to suit up and let it fly.
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