There’s little doubt that neither the Irish nor the Spartans wanted to be in the position that they’ll be in tomorrow. When the final whistle blows, one team will be looking at a 1-2 record. One team will be answering tough questions that are usually reserved for a team that has been left for dead.
For Notre Dame, a win is a necessity. At 1-2, the Irish would still be in the national conversation, but the talk will be of Charlie Weis’ dismissal and the tailspin that this season has already become. What will be used against Weis is the allegedly “soft schedule that even Weis couldn’t navigate. But let’s take a quick look at the cupcake schedule the Irish allegedly are playing:
Nevada — An explosive offensive team that battles a difficult nonconference schedule.
Michigan — A young up-and-coming team that could challenge in the Big Ten.
Michigan State — A physical team that was picked third in the Big Ten during preseason.
Purdue — Blew-out a Toledo team that beat Colorado. Were a failed two-point conversion away from beating Oregon. Could have easily face Notre Dame undefeated.
Washington — An improved team that took LSU took the max.
Southern Cal — A national title contender.
Boston College — A difficult ACC slate, but undefeated and have handled the Irish lately.
Washington State — Neutral Site game against a Pac-10 team, but should be an easy win.
Navy — Were a two-point conversion away from tying Ohio State in the Horseshoe.
Pitt — Handled Buffalo, and should be a Big East contender.
UConn — 12 points in final 11 minutes to lose to UNC. Should contend for the Big East title.
Stanford — Upstart Pac-10 team that could finish in the top-three of the Pac-10.
Tomorrow’s victory will be imperative, if only for the team’s confidence. Beat Michigan State, and Purdue and Washington become confidence builders before facing USC. Lose to the Spartans, and those games become two potential pitfalls before the Trojans come to town.
Momentum and perception are two very important beasts in college football. Beat Michigan State and the Irish can regain the momentum they lost last weekend in Ann Arbor, while regaining the perception of a dangerous team on the national scene. Lose to the Spartans, and the momentum and perception of this Irish season become dark very quickly.
We will find out soon enough which way this season will go.