I had all but packed it in with Notre Dame sitting at 1-3. Here goes another season down the tubes. Here I go having to defend a 1-11 season. Why did God make me a Notre Dame fan? Woe is me. I already have tickets for the Navy game at the New Meadowlands Stadium, and I plan on getting tickets for the Army game at Yankees stadium, but it doesn't really matter at 1-3; how can I enjoy them? Should I even bother going?
But now, after watching Saturday's game against the Boston College Eagles the Notre Dame Fighting Irish stand at 2-3, and I have a brand new perspective. Yes, it’s still a losing record, however, looking back I don’t think the situation with the Irish is a bad as it seems.
Look at the three games that the Irish lost.
A back-and-forth matchup with perennial rival Michigan, who were lucky enough to get the ball back at the end of the game. The way we were moving the ball around I have no doubt that if the tables were turned it would have been the Irish putting points on the board to put the Wolverines away as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Now Michigan is unbeaten and ranked 18th in the country; and their starting quarterback (who put up over 500 yards of total offense) is deep in Heisman contention.
This was a complete heartbreaker. Like they do every year the Spartans played hard against the Irish and kept it close, close enough to go into overtime. The Irish had to settle for three on their first drive after regulation and it seemed to be enough as they put the Spartan field goal team on the field. However, the Spartans scored on what is arguably the gutsiest call in years; a fake field goal pass, which was so shocking it even put the coach who called it in the hospital with a heart attack. Now Michigan State is looking like a force to be reckoned with and is currently unbeaten and ranked at 17th in the nation.
This isn’t your Dad’s old Stanford football team. Coach Harbaugh has these young men playing football on an entirely different level. Plus it doesn't hurt that they have a Heisman front runner by the name of Andrew Luck calling the shots at quarterback. Stanford demolished Notre Dame—certainly their worst game of the season. But it’s not just a flash in the pan. They’ve done that to everyone they’ve played and now stand at 4-1 ranked 16th in the top 25 and are completely in the BCS picture. They’re a really, really good football team.
Notre Dame came out against BC and looked like the ND team we were all waiting for. Fast, calling plays on the fly, hitting receivers, setting up Armando Allen and the run game, and making the secondary look into the backfield with Dayne Crist running the football too. Manti and Carlo were smacking BC players all over the place on the other side of the ball too. The Irish jumped on the Eagles early and often and improved their overall record to 2-3 against a team who always plays them close.
What’s the moral of the story? Notre Dame has lost three games to three of the best teams in the country—teams that are a combined 14-1 and two out of the three have Heisman candidates at the quarterback position. Not to mention, this is a Notre Dame team with a first-year starter in Dayne Crist, running a brand new offense by Brian Kelly, who is also in his first year as head coach. Boise State has not played the level of talent that the Irish have (and they are in the BCS championship talks).
The Irish have a long way to go, but maybe they are not as far behind where they should be at this point. I am not saying we are ‘Bama or Arkansas right now, but we have a good squad that is going through some growing pains. I think the next few weeks will be telling for the Irish. No one had the Irish going 12-0 this year so this is how I see the season playing out:
Should Wins: Pitt, Western Michigan, Navy, Tulsa, and Army
Could Wins: USC, Utah
If the Irish win all the “should wins” and pull off at least one upset in the “could wins” category they would be 8-4 and going to a bowl game. This Irish fan would be more than satisfied with BK’s first year as I am sure most Irish fans would be. Plus pulling an upset against USC would really set the Irish in motion for next season and it would give Irish fans around the world the faith that the program is finally headed in the right direction. Go Irish!