Thursday, September 04, 2008

Who do you Trust?

"And now, folks, it's time for, "Who do you trust!" Hubba, hubba, hubba! Money, money, money! Who do you trust? Me? I'm giving away free money. And where is the Batman? HE'S AT HOME WASHING HIS TIGHTS!"
Jack Nicholson as The Joker, Batman

I know, grammatically it's "Whom do you trust". Nicholson didn't help me out here.

But it's a question I've been wondering as we get down to the nitty gritty in this football season. Prognostications abound, and here at NDN we have our own Heatmiser and Snowmiser with differing views on how the season should/will go.

First kick is just over 48 hours away as I type, so it's time to get off the fence. And for me, it comes down to a question of trust.

Notre Dame wasn't as good as its record last year, which is a scary thought. But it also was better than its record last year, which is cause for optimism. But in the end, as Charlie Weis would say, they were what their record said they were: a 3-9 team.

Did they have the talent to finish 3-9? No. I believe they had the talent to finish 6-6. They had no business losing to Navy under any circumstances, and Air Force and BC should have been wins. I also believe the lopsided scores of some games were also not consistent with the talent ND had on the field, young and raw as it may have been.

ND finished 3-9 instead of 6-6 and got its doors blown off in a couple games because Charlie Weis and his staff did a crappy job last season. He took an inexperienced team and tried to go the cutesy route, playing with personnel and schemes instead of establishing bread-and-butter plays ND could use to its advantage.

So as we look to the next season, it comes down to trust: Do I trust Charlie Weis learned from his mistakes and is going to be a better coach this season?

My answer to that question is yes.

People say it's crazy to expect a 3-win team to win 10 games the next season. It's unprecedented. My reply is so was the drop ND experienced between 2006 and 2007. When unusual circumstances (poor and small senior class, bad coaching decisions) create an unusual down, resolving them can create an unusual up.

CW did a lot of things that surprised me in the offseason, but none more than his 25-person pilgrimage. According to reports on and off campus, Charlie went to 25 people whose opinions he values, including people like Fr. Ted Hesburgh and Ara Parseghian, and asked for a no-holds-barred candid critique of himself and his program. Coming from a "Jersey tough" guy who had a habit of telling you your opinion when he wanted to hear it, this was quite a departure from the norm and told me things weren't business as usual in the Gug these last couple of months.

He also did a number of things people have been clamoring for since he arrived. He adopted a more approachable attitude, with players and staff alike. He made himself more available to alumni. He even decided to trust his staff more, allocating play-calling duties to OC Mike Haywood.

This isn't your father's Charlie Weis. Does this mean he's still not prickly sometimes? No, but it's not all the time now either. And as a result, a couple of people who weren't high on the prospects for his career at Notre Dame have done a 180 on him and now believe, as one of the 25 said after meeting with him, "he's gonna be all right".

So my prediction for the season? We're gonna be all right. To wit:

SDSU -- BIG WIN. Please. If this one's wrong, we're doomed.

MICHIGAN -- NARROW WIN. Even when the Wolverines are down, they're dangerous to ND.

at MICHIGAN STATE -- NARROW WIN. The road-team streak in the series continues.

PURDUE -- COMFORTABLE WIN. Wilford goes out on a sour note.

STANFORD -- NARROW WIN. The Cardinal are better than you think under Jim Harbaugh, who Michigan should have hired instead of Rodriguez (and may yet after he flames out).

at NORTH CAROLINA -- NARROW LOSS. Butch Davis starts to make his presence felt in Chapel Hill.

at WASHINGTON -- BIG WIN. I've got $10 that says Tyrone Willingham won't be the head coach at WA when this game is played.

PITTSBURGH -- BIG WIN. Another $10 says Wannie won't be there either.

at BC -- COMFORTABLE WIN. The Eagles don't have the horses this year, and the Irish are pissed.

at NAVY -- BIG WIN. This isn't Paul Johnson's Midshipmen anymore.

SYRACUSE -- BIG WIN. $10 here too. It says something about ND's schedule this year that three of its opponents' head coaches might be fired by the time the Fighting Irish play them.

at SOUTHERN CAL -- NARROW LOSS. Can't quite get it done this year. Next year in South Bend ... look out, Snoopy.

10-2 will be enough for the Cotton Bowl, where the Irish will break their bowl losing streak and be among the favorites to win a national title in 2009.


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Anonymous Rich said...

God I hope you're right.

9/04/2008 09:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good stuff, but UNC is a win, MSU probably a loss, and USC a three-touchdown loss. Also, a young team is going to make a few killer turnovers or penalties and turn another of those should-wins into a loss. Whether that's Michigan, Pittsburgh, or Boston College, I'm not sure.

That leaves it at 9-3, which is a great platform for a possible title run in the next two years.

9/04/2008 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

it is funny to me how people can't grasp the fact that teams grow and mature the more they play together. Just one fact I want to point out, everyone last year complained about special teams and we can't get the kickoff to go anywhere near the end zone. In the spring Burkhart was routinely getting kickoff's 5 yards into the end zone.

9/04/2008 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

I can see us being undefeated until SC, but I also saw us winning 9 games in 2007, so who know? No matter what, win or lose, I want us to go down fighting this year. Oh and I do want to see Weis and Co. put up 70 points on Willingfraud.

9/04/2008 10:57:00 AM  
Anonymous sb club president said...

I agree. I think a lot of prognosticators are skeptical of this team after last year's tank job. At this time last year I said, "there's no way this team wins less than 7 games!"
I've learned from my mistakes and my thought is, "there's no way this team WINS more than 7 games!" That should cover us.
Go Irish!!!

9/04/2008 11:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope we don't win 10 games, and get picked for another BCS blowout

9/04/2008 11:58:00 AM  
Anonymous VaIrish84 said...

I think one thing we will need to get used to with Weis is that we probably won't have close losses. To him, losing by 1 is like losing by 31. He will go down swinging, taking chances. Some of those will backfire, as we have seen. Some will be successful, as we have also seen. Even with playcalling switching the big calls, go on 4th, etc., will remain Weis, as they should.

I can see the season playing out as you suggest. I think the UM, MSU, BC and UNC games are the swings that could go either way. I would have put Pitt there, but I have lowered expectations.

9/04/2008 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Based on what this team and coaching staff have shown I wouldn't be surprised with 7-5 or 5-7. I think 10 wins is a pip dream but I love the enthusiasm.

9/04/2008 01:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Timmy said...

Love the enthusiasim of the new season, though I am not sure I share the optimism of a 9 or 10 win season. There is a lot to fix out there. I would be happy just to see the team show some fire in their eyes. I know the wins will come least the schedule is favorable.

9/04/2008 02:11:00 PM  
Anonymous TJAK said...

All things being equal, there is no way the Irish should not win the first 11. Avoiding injuries and playing at a high level, while avoiding mistakes will have to be the case for this to happen, of course. I really do get a sense that this is a team in more ways then just on paper. Go Irish!!!

9/04/2008 02:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There appears to be a disconnect here. Ara was interviewed this week and clearly stated on Blue & Gold's Irish Huddle 8/28 that CW has not spoken with him RE: the team and advice.????????????

9/04/2008 02:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Tony Spilotro said...

I just can't allow myself to be optimistic, even with the shock of last season worn off nearly a year later. I am really worried about Turk at LT and losing Walls scares me even more.

I didn't hear much about Raeshon during camp, and I have a bad feeling he may be a 2008 version of Clifford Jefferson in his first year starting at CB. All of the above, combined with an injury or two in the wrong place, and we have problems.

The Michigan game is GIGANTIC, we have to win it in order for most of your predictions to fall in place.

9/04/2008 02:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think 10 might be a little optimistic, but i like the enthusiasm. I hope Willingham is gone when we play them. I want to see if the medias reaction will be the same as when he was let go from ND ... I seriously doubt it. I say 7-5 and competative in 4 of the losses. Go Irish!

9/04/2008 03:28:00 PM  
Blogger Martin said...


I agree with your assessment of Weis not caring about margin of loss. However, I don't like it, nor do I want to get used to it. We aren't shooting for the title just yet, and the fact is that in college football, margins mean a whole lot more than they do in the NFL. You can lose an NFL game by 30 and all you get is an "L" on the record. In college, it makes you fall down the rankings, which is often hard to overcome.

9/04/2008 03:59:00 PM  
Anonymous trey said...

Ive been praying for another Cotton Bowl for a number of years. Here's hoping. I dont see how we dont win 9 games this year, theres not (maybe) more than 3 teams that can beat us on the schedule. I dispute your UNC claim, though. I think they're the Cleveland Browns of the NCAA(all hype, no substance).

9/04/2008 05:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beat SC

Michigan Sucks!

9/04/2008 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger Felipe said...

love the approach toward the season...but good god I hope you're right. Go Irish! Even though my nerves are starting to give me diarrhea.

9/04/2008 07:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Regarding your comment, is it any coincidence that Butch Davis once coached the Browns and is now at UNC?

9/04/2008 08:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As Charlie Weis would say: sign me up for that (10-2).

9/04/2008 09:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The talent and experience level has been updated from last year...but the coaching staff is the same on offense... the question is whether the staff can develop and maximize the talent they are bringing in to the program.

3-9 would not have happened with a seasoned (make that competent)college coaching staff.

It is possible the staffing can turn around their end of the bargain but it won't be as easy to do as it is in bringing in better playing talent.

This is a bellweather season for Charlie and his staff. It may not be evident in the number of wins but in the areas such as consistently beating teams with less talent, competing against better talented teams, and having a team that is finally physical and intense. Go Irish.

9/04/2008 09:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate you for giving me hope, sir. I was perfectly happy with 7-5, and maybe even 8-4. But 10-2? WHY DO YOU TORTURE ME?

Sigh. I hope you're right. But if you are, being the Irish, the Cotton Bowl may not GET to pick us. And then we're all in a lot of trouble.

9/05/2008 09:46:00 AM  
Blogger DMW said...

Let's not our undies in a knot when the season isn't great. THere's no reason to think that we will have great team until 2009.

9/06/2008 10:38:00 AM  

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