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Charlie Weis Needs to Win in 2009 to Quiet the Critics

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Charlie Weis’s tenure with the Irish started with a bang. He posted 9-3 and 10-3 records in 2005 and 2006, guiding his team to two straight BCS bowl games. He took Brady Quinn, who at that point was a pedestrian QB, and made him a sought after name for the NFL. Then, the wheels came off as Tyrone Willingham’s players graduated and Weis struggled to find quality replacements. The 2007 3-9 record was shocking to many Irish faithful and the 7-6 record (including Notre Dame’s first bowl win in what seems like forever) last season did little to stem the tide of speculation about Weis’s future in South Bend.

Weis posted three top ten recruiting classes before dropping into the 20s this year. This includes a #2 ranked class in 2008. Notre Dame is not an easy school to recruit to. It’s in a place that’s cold. There’s a ton of tradition to live up to. It’s one of the most academically rigorous schools in the country. Combine those elements with the rise of teams nearer where the bulk of college football talent is generated, Weis has done a very good job of bringing talent to the slash mark end zones. However, that talent has yet to mature and for the Irish, rebuilding is simply not a term easily accepted. Weis has not forgotten what got him where he is today. His more active role in the offense greatly improved an anemic Irish attack last year.

I can understand the 2007 season (though the loss to Navy still baffles me) because of the talent drop off from the previous regime and the youth Notre Dame put on the field. The third year in a coaching stint can be very difficult if the coach experiences great success early (i.e., has good players that needed better coaching) because, at some point, the talent gets really young and inexperienced. The 2008 season was about like I expected, though I think the excitement the bowl win generated is very suspect as Hawai’i is not the usual football juggernaut Notre Dame plays in bowl games. However, I will agree that the momentum of an end of the season win is much better than the usual loss.

Here’s how I seem the 2009 schedule shaping up for Notre Dame:
Sept. 5 Nevada Win over a fun, but overmatched team.
Sept. 12 at Michigan Win unless Rich Rodriguez finds a quarterback.
Sept. 19 Michigan State I say Win as the Spartans lost experienced playmakers from last year.
Sept. 26 at Purdue Win. Purdue is not what it used to be.
Oct. 3 Washington Win. Washington is a mess.

Oct. 17 Southern California Loss. Even with the open date and all of the question marks, USC is still better.
Oct. 24 Boston College Loss. BC is a solid team even with the off season coaching drama.
Oct. 31 vs. Washington State (at San Antonio, Texas) Win. Paul Wulff may not make it to the game as WSU’s coach.
Nov. 7 Navy Win.
Nov. 14 at Pittsburgh Win. Panthers have too much youth on defense and are coached by the historically inept Dave Wannstedt.
Nov. 21 Connecticut Win. UConn lost many playmakers.
Nov. 28 at Stanford Win. I like Jim Harbaugh, but this is still Stanford.

Those 10 wins are not locks, but are games where I think the Irish will be/should be favored. A 10-win season will guarantee Notre Dame another BCS bowl game where Weis needs not only a better performance, but a win against a top quality opponent. With the talent raked in from recruiting and Weis at the helm of the offense (which is exactly where he should be), the Irish have no reasons not to be back at the top of the college football landscape.

Charlie Weis once co-wrote a book with Vic Carucci titled No Excuses. That just about sums up where he is as the head coach of college football’s most storied program.

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