When people say Notre Dame, most people think about the football team. The Fighting Irish have always been a very prestigious football school.
They hold the second best all-time winning percentage of any college team—behind only Michigan—but the past two years have not been so good to the golden domers.
In fact, the past two years have been hell for Irish fans.
Notre Dame went a combined 9-15 over the past two seasons, including setting the record for most losses in a season in 2007 with nine. The Irish especially did not fare well against their main rival USC, losing 38-0 in 2007 and 35-3 in 2008.
So you would think it could only get better for the Irish, right?
Well, that’s exactly what might happen.
This year has the potential to be a comeback year for the Irish. With a relatively easy schedule, the Irish can post an above .500 regular season record for the first time in two years and could end up in the top 25 or—gasp—even the BCS at the end of the year.
The Irish were ranked at 23rd in the preseason polls, which I think is a lenient ranking considering how average they were last season.
One thing is for sure, after yet another stellar recruiting class pulled into South Bend by Charlie Weis, the Irish have the players to prove they belong in the top 25.
The Irish’s recruiting class was in the top 10 again this year, and we all know that recruiting is a necessary step in rebuilding a college football program into the powerful force it desires to be.
Furthermore, the returning players on offense have matured and should be ready to take another step forward this season, which is obviously one in which the Irish hope to win a spot in one of the major bowl games.
Not only do they want to be in one, they want to win one.
The offense is led by junior QB Jimmy Clausen and junior WR Golden Tate. These two love each other and are prepped to have a stellar year.
Clausen has been called a bust by some, but he is now in his prime and so is the offense.
Notre Dame is known to have had potent offenses in the past, and it all starts at the QB position. With greats like Joe Montana and recently, Brady Quinn, Clausen has high expectations to fulfill.
Another person who is not a player also has infamously high expectations to fulfill. And when I say that, I mean (who else?) Charlie Weis.
Going into his fourth season, Weis has put up a modest 29-21 record. The only great year Weis has had was in 2006, when the Irish went 10-2, but lost in the Sugar Bowl to LSU. After the disappointment of the last two years, fans have been calling for Notre Dame to fire Weis, and there were rumors after last season that he was in fact going to be fired.
However, Weis wasn’t fired, and this year will be a statement of just how good a coach Weis is.
He has clearly had mixed reviews over his coaching career with Notre Dame. All agree he is a great recruiter, but some argue he is a terrible on-field play caller and coach. Is his offense too complicated for a college football team? Some have said so.
The overriding trust is that Weis has the tools and he mentally understands how to move the football. Can he use those tools effectively and instill the same knowledge into his players?
We will just have to wait and see.
As you can see, this year will be a make or break season for the Fighting Irish and their embattled coach. The players are there, the schedule sets up nicely, and the fans are ready. Will this be a comeback year or will it just be another disappointment?
Nobody can know, except maybe Touchdown Jesus.
[Editor's note: you can catch Notre Dame's first game this Saturday, Sept. 5, against Nevada at 3:30 PM est. Follow the link to see the entire Week 1 college football schedule and point spreads.]
* – Notre Dame gold helmet photo credit: UND.com
* – Charlie Weis / Jimmy Clausen photo credit: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar via WSBT.com