(From BCS Guru)
When Charlie Weis showed up on the Notre Dame campus in 2005, one of the first things he told his new charges was that they would have "a schematic advantage" over every opponent, no matter the talent level.
Three years hence, that schematic advantage seems as elusive as offensive touchdowns by the Irish.
After the latest Notre Dame beatdown, this time at the hands of Michigan State, Weis insisted that he "didn't become a crummy coach overnight."
Well, it took about three years. Or more accurately, the other guys are just Weising up.
At 0-4, and fast going on 0-8, Notre Dame is at a crossroads. Some of the Irish Kool-Aid drinkers insist that the worst is behind them and that 2008 will surely return Notre Dame to glory. That 2007 was truly a rebuilding year, even if Weis himself didn't want to use the "R" word. That this is really all Tyrone Willingham's fault.
But is it?
After going 19-10 in his first two-plus seasons, it's time to take a hard look at what Weis has done. And upon further review, you really have to wonder how the Notre Dame brass feels about that 10-year contract it gave to Weis after he went 5-2 in his first seven games.
Weis went 9-3 in 2005, with two good wins (over Michigan in Ann Arbor and over Tennessee at home), a memorable loss (to No. 1 USC in South Bend with the Trojans pulling out a thriller in the final minute), a bad loss (to Michigan State) and a bowl blowout (to Ohio State in the Fiesta). After going 6-6 in Willingham's final season, this was an improvement, but hardly monumental since ND still couldn't beat SC or win a bowl game.
In 2006, it was more of the same in a 10-3 season. The Irish had one good win (over Penn State), two comeback wins over underdogs (Michigan State and UCLA) and three blowout losses (to Michigan, USC and LSU in the Sugar), that extended their losing streaks to USC (five games) and in bowl games (nine).
This year, Notre Dame has been blown out in four straight games, by teams with an overall record of 11-5 (or 7-5 after removing games against ND). Its next four games will be, at Purdue, at UCLA, at home to Boston College and USC, four teams with a combined record of 15-1. For good measure, the final quartet on Notre Dame's schedule might not be as much a pushover as first thought, as it's possible for the Irish to go 2-2 against Navy, Air Force, Duke and Stanford.
Dare we say it, 2-10?
Whatever happened to the "schematic advantage?"
Well, as Bear Bryant once said, it's still up to the players to play the games. You can blame Willingham's weak recruiting all you want, but Weis a) hasn't "coached them up" to be better than they are; b) hasn't shown that he's made much hay with his own recruits. And as far as the X's and O's stuff, college coaches might not be the rubes that Weis thought they were. Michigan's Lloyd Carr, for example, couldn't beat Appalachian State but has "out-coached" Weis to the tune of 85-21 over the last two years.
And it simply may be that Weis is ill-suited for the college game. He's no longer dealing with seasoned pros like when he was with the New England Patriots. Motivation at the college level, when paychecks are not part of the equation, is a very different thing. In his two-plus seasons with Notre Dame, Weis' best game as a coach was a near win, the 34-31 loss to USC in '05. He didn't beat a Top 10 team and lost big to those in the Top 10.
In other words, he won the games he's supposed to win. That might be an improvement over Willingham. But that isn't good enough -- not at a program with its own TV network.
Notre Dame will improve next year. One, there's no place to go but up after this season. Two, the schedule is considerably softer, with Pittsburgh, Syracuse and San Diego State replacing Penn State, Georgia Tech and Air Force. Three, Weis and his staff can really concentrate on recruiting this winter, without worrying about another annoying bowl blowout.
For the rest of the college football universe, it's time to rejoice. No BCS berth will go to the undeserving Irish this year. Baseless rumors of Weis going to the NFL will not clutter up the sports pages. Best of all, that "Clausen for Heisman" campaign will have to wait another year.
Let's not wake up the echoes for awhile longer.