Every football team has a crucial stretch of games that defines a season.
Every team also has a head coach during that time.
Win, and that coach is praised as a human god by the fans, media and bandwagoners all over.
Lose, and that same man is blamed, jeered and held responsible for his team's collapse, followed by a season ending with a post-apocalyptic feeling.
Notre Dame and their head coach face this challenge starting this weekend.
The "judgement" van hits the road on Saturday and stops in a familiar setting for the Irish—West Lafayette.
Here, they will encounter the broken and battered Boilermakers of Purdue.
Some will argue that this game serves no purpose and is Notre Dame's weakest opponent on the slate this year. (Eastern Michigan, anyone?) After all, Purdue is one of the few teams Weis holds three wins against in his career.
However, some fail to realize that Weis has struggled in the games his team is supposed to win easily. In case you are in need of a reminder, think: Senior Day snowball fight.
Notre Dame also isn't known for being a strong road team under Weis.
Winning a close game will leave a lot to be desired from the Fighting Irish going into a now-important game against Washington. To right the ship, Weis needs to make a point to his opponents and pound the football into the end zone until the clock hits zero.
In order for a passing grade, Notre Dame must try to repeat their season opener and beat the Boilermakers with authority.
Thank you, Washington
I found some fans upset that the Huskies had upset USC the other night on national television.
However, this was a gift wrapped from Touchdown Jesus himself.
Not only does the upset add strength to a "weak" Irish schedule, but it has put Notre Dame in a position to make up some ground. Win against a team fresh off a Trojan beating and Weis has another positive to add to his resume.
Steve Sarkisan accomplished something that Charlie Weis has only dreamt of for the past five years. Because of that, Weis has a chance to get the momentum ball rolling once again.
Winning a game against a ranked opponent is important for a coach who can count on his own fingers the number of wins he has against Top-25 foes.
A win against a ranked Washington team would mean a three-game winning streak and would likely put a number in front of the Irish heading into Oct. 17. If that happens, things would be playing out ideally for Weis.
A loss would mean lessened hype for the most important game of the season and another loss in a meaningful match up for Weis.
The Measuring Stick
Notre Dame will come into Trojan Week amidst one of two scenarios.
Scenario A: The Irish beat Purdue meaningfully and win a shootout against Jake Locker and company. Fan support, team morale and momentum is at an all-time high since the Michigan loss, and the Irish come into the game No. 23 in the AP Poll.
Scenario B: The Irish win a close game with Purdue but Jimmy Clausen struggles without his favorite target while Golden Tate continues to drop touchdowns. The next week, Notre Dame loses to Washington in South Bend, killing momentum and lessening the excitement of the clash between two rivals.
In either scenario, this game will mean life or death. This is the test for Charlie Weis.
Weis has two jobs to do in order to keep his job—win a relevant bowl game and beat the Trojans.
Beating USC would do many things for Weis. In one night, he could get his signature win and likely secure his job for next year without another late-season collapse.
Beating the Trojans would also do many things for the Irish. Referring back to Scenario A, the Irish would be rolling and, with a win against USC, a BCS bowl would no longer be out of reach.
In most eyes, a BCS bowl is not attainable for Notre Dame without a win on Oct. 17.
Will Weis come through and gain some much-needed trust, or will Brian Kelly be given a phone call?
Get to the Grotto and light those candles, Irish fans. It is the time of judgement.