Before too much is made over Notre Dame's 33-30 win over Michigan State in South Bend on Saturday, lets keep things in perspective.
This win does break the Spartans' obscene 7-game winning streak playing under the Touchdown Jesus. And the win also likely does save Charlie Weis' job, for now. But this a Notre Dame team loaded with talent, featuring a top 5 quarterback and two of the best receivers in the nation (although Michael Floyd was injured at the end of the first half). And this is a Michigan State team that is one week removed from a loss to their new apparent interstate rival… Central Michigan.
Its obviously fortunate for the Irish and Weis to win this football game — a win can never be a negative — but there is still a big problem with the Notre Dame football team, and judging by the stats the issue may not be on the field.
Jimmy Clausen was once again highly effective, going 22-for-31 for 300 yards and two touchdowns. In three games Clausen has now thrown for 951 yards (317/game), nine touchdowns and has still not tossed an interception. Golden Tate was his usual dynamic self, posting 127 yards and a touchdown, and after Michael Floyd went down (with what has since been reported as a broken collar bone), 6'6" 260-pound wrecking ball TE Kyle Rudolph helped fill the void, bringing in 7 receptions for 95 yards. Even the ground game was strong, with Armando Allen racking up 115 yards and a touchdown, averaging 5.0 a carry.
So it would seem the problem has to be the defense. The offense obviously did its job — putting up 33 points — but it was the defense that surrendered 30 points to a team that managed only 27 against Central Michigan.
The defensive unit definitely blitzed too much, leaving holes that were exposed by surprisingly good sophomore quarterback Kirk Cousins. The skill level on the defensive side of the ball cannot be this bad. The Irish are just as loaded with top recruits on "D" as they are on offense. At times they have displayed an absolutely ferocious technique, swarming ball carriers and practicing air-tight coverage. But in too many instances against Michigan and Michigan State, opposing receivers were hit wide open downfield and quarterbacks found open lanes to run through that should have been filled.
It all comes back to coaching. In football, no matter how great the skill level of the team, if the scheme is poor the squad will lose. Charlie Weis is a first rate recruiter and likely a very good offensive coordinator (although his play calling recently bring that into question), but as a head coach he simply isn't cutting it. Whether the extra responsibilities involved with the position are distracting his focus from on-field strategy (his supposed specialty) or his own arrogance pushes him to do such unconventional things (like run the wildcat!?!) that eventually his schemes backfire, its becoming more and more apparent that no matter how well Notre Dame recruits, they may never win with Weis at the helm.
Notre Dame fans should rejoice — on some level — in this win. They deserve to, as it's been a tough 15 years. It is outstanding that the Irish beat MSU on their homefield, as 2-1 is so much better than 1-2, but the reality is that this win likely only delays the inevitability of Weis' termination. Hopefully this analysis is wrong and Charlie evolves into the head coach many envisioned when he first came to South Bend from the "Belichick School of Hard Knocks and Super Bowl Titles." But this 3-point win over the meager Spartans is hardly evidence of that