(The Rock Report) – There has been an ideological debate on NDNation over whether coaching or talent was responsible for Notre Dame’s two year plunge. The answer is both and when you have two factors with that much impact, it’s hard, if not impossible, to determine ultimate causation.
As we’ve covered before (ad nauseam) Weis is learning on the job and the weighted talent level fell off the table the last two years. That combination led to the worst year most of us can remember in 2007 and an embarrassing collapse in 2008.
Unfortunately that has many fans “lowering the bar” heading into 2009. Most have already chalked up a loss to Southern Cal and would consider making the BCS a turnaround for the program.
I suggest that bar is too low.
It’s now year five of the Weis era, Notre Dame is elite in terms of upper tier talent (our talent level in 09 will be higher than Florida’s last year) and Weis is dealing with a full allotment of coaches chosen by him after careful selection. Notre Dame has as veteran an offensive line as there is in the country, a full array of weapons and a five-star junior quarterback who’s now been been on campus for three springs that was coveted by everyone in the country including USC.
There’s no reason to assume a loss to Southern Cal is a fait accompli; in fact, there’s reason to believe Notre Dame should beat the Trojans this year.
USC loses its entire starting linebacking corps, all but one of its starting defensive linemen, two star defensive backs and likely first round pick Mark Sanchez at quarterback. To be sure they’re filling in the holes with five-star spackle like Everson Griffen who started as a freshman, but Notre Dame will be playing USC relatively straight-up from a mature talent standpoint. (ND-USC Steele Rankings )
The big worry is USC’s offensive line matched against Notre Dame’s very green defensive line, but every other match-up is close enough, assuming coaching and player development, for Notre Dame to win. If Notre Dame’s defensive line isn’t blown off the ball by USC, Jimmy Clausen’s experience and home field advantage should be the difference.
If Notre Dame is going to return to the elite of college football, 2009 is the year. A top ten finish with top ten talent after three years of coaching under-performance should be a minimum goal. At some point, you have to prove you can get the Ws and this is that year for Weis.
Whether or not Weis deserved another year is now a moot point. If Weis is a truly a championship coach, we should expect to beat USC or come so close (as in 2005) that there’s no doubt the rising Irish talent is being coached by a staff can lift them to excellence.
It’s time to ditch the “Hold Me I’m Irish” mindset that has perpetuated mediocrity in South Bend and expect and demand excellence on the field.
It’s time to beat SC.