The same blank face that was Charlie Weis' signature emotion in his last days in South Bend has slowly made a comeback on the face of Brian Kelly.
Three weeks into his first year under contract in South Bend, Kelly finds himself exactly where Charlie Weis left off—under the critical spotlight of Domer nation. After a successful victory in his first game donning the Blue and Gold, Kelly has now lost three straight contests to bring the Irish to a miserable 1-3 record to start of the year.
Now, the Irish are just fighting to get to six wins and bowl game—something Weis managed to fail in in 2007.
Everyone had expectations for Notre Dame this year. Some were high (maybe even too high) and some were predicting an average end result, but very few foresaw this poor of a start for a team with a complete makeover.
Without making excuses, there are plenty of reasons why the Irish aren't a top team in 2010.
The offense is still building and learning, as you can see by the inconsistency of both Dayne Crist and his offensive line. Even All-American Michael Floyd has shown sigs of confusion when it comes to the new no-huddle approach.
On the other side of the ball, the defense has shown even more signs of inconsistency.
At times, the entire 11-man defense looks like a top-flight team, only to give up a 20-yard touchdown pass on the next play. It may be unfair to call this team unimproved this early on in the year, but so far, we haven't seen much in that department either.
Besides the All-World Manti Te'o, this defense is still just as confused and lacks just as much depth in important positions as that of the Jon Tenuta-days.
But without the help of the offense, the defense can only do so much in the long run.The main problem for Kelly is that his teams are use to winning in shootouts.
We all remember what he accomplished at Cincinnati and how many 40+ point games the Bearcats put up on the scoreboard. Without a highly-successful offense thus far, ball games are going to be hard to win for Kelly, no matter who his team is and how much talent he has.
We know this football team is going to improve. The talent is apparent not only on the roster right now, but in the current recruiting class.
You can forget the high aspirations of a BCS bowl or a major bowl for that matter in year one for Kelly. If the team finds it's way to a decent bowl, and comes out with a victory, that will be enough to satisfy most Domers' needs for the rest of 2010.
However, when year two comes around, Kelly will have no more excuses. Everyone understands that greatness takes time—just ask Lou Holtz and Nick Saban. But at Notre Dame, greatness is all that is expected, and when it hasn't been around for many years, Kelly is bound to take some hits after his losing start.
That greatness needs to be worked towards starting this week vs. Boston College. Improving each week and being a better football team by the time USC rolls around is now the goal for this team.
Expect plenty of bumps and bruises on the ride, but in time, it might just pay off.