How disappointing has this 2009 season been for Fighting Irish fans? How many would have believed Notre Dame would be limping across the country to play Stanford in the season finale with a 6-5 record?
When the 2009 schedule was first released, many pointed to this game against Stanford as a tough test to end the season. The Cardinal always play Notre Dame tough, coach Jim Harbaugh would have his team ready, and a possible BCS bowl game could be on the line for the Fighting Irish.
Instead of playing for a BCS berth, Notre Dame comes into this game with little to play for. And for that reason, this game does not have many reasons to be watched on television.
Of course it may very well be Charlie Weis’ last game as coach of Notre Dame, but that has been a foregone conclusion and it is barely exciting to watch a game just to see how a coach will walk off the field one last time.
Barring the chance that Notre Dame does not play in a bowl game, this could be the last game in which both Golden Tate and Jimmy Clausen suit up in the blue and gold. And perhaps many players will be auditioning for their soon-to-be new coach as well.
So I will concede there are a couple reasons to watch this game.
But the sad fact is that Notre Dame has little to gain from this match up, against this Stanford team at this stage of the season.
Most of us are ready to watch another Irish loss to a tough but less talented Stanford team. And even if Notre Dame does win, it will be utterly meaningless.
With a victory we’ll hear about how overrated Stanford was, how much more talent Notre Dame has and the pundits will write how the Irish should beat Stanford every time they meet.
With a loss, it will vindicate all the mounting reasons why Charlie Weis should no longer be the coach in South Bend.
So what can we expect from tonight’s game in Palo Alto?
Without Armando Allen at halfback, the Irish will have a difficult time running the ball. Then again, running the football may not be in Weis’ game plan to begin with.
Expect Robert Hughes to get the bulk of the carries. But also expect the inevitable abandonment of the running game for long stretches. Weis has done this for the past three years and there is no reason to believe this game will be any different.
But wouldn’t it be funny if Notre Dame actually put together a well-balanced offensive performance and played dominant defensively? How would ND Nation feel if the Irish played like we’ve always wanted this team to play, but only in Charlie Weis’ last game?
Of course that won’t happen.
Unfortunately, this will probably be more of a showcase to the NFL of the talents of Clausen, Tate and Floyd. These three will “get theirs” but Notre Dame will end up on the short end of the stick as a team once again.
On the other side of the ball, Stanford brings the exact type of offense that is like kryptonite to the Notre Dame defense: a strong power running game led by Heisman candidate Toby Gerhart mixed with a competent passing game adept at setting up the play action pass.
It’s hard to imagine how Notre Dame, who couldn’t stop Pittsburgh, could slow down this Stanford offense, which looks to be similar yet stronger than the Panthers version.
There will be points put up on the scoreboard but Notre Dame is still a big underdog in this game. I expect Stanford to win by 10 and to have everyone singing Harbaugh’s praises and pleading that he becomes the next coach in South Bend. (It is not happening, by the way).
What we really want is to get this game over with and see what the future holds. Who is going to be the new Irish coach? Will Notre Dame accept a bowl bid if they are given an invitation? Will Clausen and Tate turn pro?
These are the urgent matters at hand for Notre Dame. Tonight’s game against Stanford is merely a prelude to all of the decisions awaiting the fate of this program.