The Charlie Weis “is going to turn Notre Dame back into the a powerhouse” tour is gearing up for it’s 5th season. A season that many believe may be his last if the Irish don’t compete at a high level.
Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how you view it) for Weis, this year’s schedule isn’t as tough as years past. It happens to every team. Sooner or later, a schedule just ends up being “soft”. You end up with an extra home game, a team isn’t as good as you thought they would be. It happens. But some are starting to believe that Notre Dame’s “soft” schedule is calculated. And not just calculated for this year, but for year’s to come.
The NCAA rated the school’s schedule as the nation’s toughest in 1978, 1985, 1987, 1989 and 1995. As recently as 2003, the schedule was ranked third-hardest in the nation and in 2004 it was seventh.
Those days aren’t likely to return any time soon. The Irish this year begin a new scheduling philosophy that calls for seven home games, four away games and a game at a neutral stadium that counts as a home game, meaning it will be aired by NBC.
Some Irish fans complain it seems as though Notre Dame is watering down its schedule to improve its chances of ending its national championship drought, which is now at 21 years.
Watering down their schedule is exactly what the Irish are doing. Unlike most schools that have a conference affiliation, they only have 4 teams that are locks to be on their schedule every year (Navy, Purdue, USC and Michigan State) and 3 teams that they play nearly every year (Pittsburgh, Michigan and Stanford). Having 7 homes games and a neutral site game effectively means that it’s almost impossible to set up a home-and-home series with a big time BCS school. Which gives them a chance to keep the losses at a minimum.
Athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, as usual brings his spin on the scheduling situation. He thinks he can find just as good competition outside of the big time BCS schools.
Swarbrick defends Notre Dame’s scheduling, saying people need to recognize there are tough teams outside the BCS. He cited Utah, a team that went 13-0 last season and finished ranked No. 2. The Irish play the Utes next year.
“I think our fans need to recognize how the BCS landscape has changed. Utah might not cause the same reaction as some other schools, but look at what they did last year,” he said. “I don’t know that Nevada isn’t this year’s Utah. I think we all have to have a more expansive view, a more studied understanding of how quickly it changes in the top level of college football today.”
Yes, there are good teams outside of the BCS. But here’s the deciding factor. Which game looks better to the BCS committee? A Notre Dame victory at home over Utah, TCU, or Nevada or A Notre Dame victory over Alabama, Oklahoma, or Texas on the road? We all know the answer to that one.