Finally we have arrived at the final game of the Charlie Weis era. The last opponent will be the Stanford Cardinal, a young, up and coming outfit led by a coach whose star is on a meteoric rise. Vegas has the Cardinal listed as a ten point home favorite and most experts believe that they'll easily cover that spread. To think that at the beginning of this month we were talking about climbing back into the BCS. It just amazes me how rapid and violent this free-fall has been.
Since the start of the month Stanford has run through Oregon and then humiliated Southern Cal at the LA Coliseum. Running Back Toby Gerhart has slid in the backdoor of the Heisman conversation with his performances against marquee opponents this month (179 ypg, 6.2 ypc, 10 TD's). Tonight provides perhaps his best opportunity to stake a claim on a primetime national stage against a porous (to say the least) Irish run defense. Their stud freshman quarterback Andrew Luck (13 TD's, 4 INT's) has been no slouch either.
Will the Irish dig deep and win one last game for their embattled coach? Will Jim Harbaugh play the role that Jimmy Johnson played in Gerry Faust's final game as coach, running up the score as Notre Dame fans either turn the channel or cringe in horror? History suggests that there's a great chance for the latter than the former. Here's a list of the final game of each coach since Ara Parseghian's swan song victory over the Bear:
1981 - Dan Devine: Georgia 17, Notre Dame 10 (Sugar Bowl)
1985 - Gerry Faust: Miami 58, Notre Dame 7
1996 - Lou Holtz: Southern Cal 27, Notre Dame 20 (Overtime)
2001 - Bob Davie: Notre Dame 24, Purdue 18
2001 - George O'Leary: Resume 1, Real Life 0
2004 - Ty Willingham: Southern Cal 41, Notre Dame 10
Things aren't good whenever Bob Davie is the leader in the clubhouse.
Notre Dame absolutely can win this game. We have more talent than the Cardinal and a passing game that should be able to exploit their biggest weakness (the secondary). Will the team show up, perform to their potential (something they have not done all year), and play a complete game (ditto) en route to a victory? Unfortunately nothing in their body of work thus far suggests they will. The argument that they'll play their most inspired ball to send their coach out a winner isn't a legitimate one--they had an opportunity to possibly save his job against Pitt and played their worst/flattest game of the year.
I don't think tonight will be a replay of the '85 Miami Massacre, but sadly I wouldn't be totally shocked. I think that just like the rest of the year we sleepwalk through three quarters, lead a furious rally in the fourth, and once again come up a play or two short. Gerhart will have a great day, Harbaugh will make a snide comment that takes a shot at Notre Dame (leading to every ND fan--including myself--to say "he's a jackass, I never wanted him as coach anyway"), and Charlie will limp off the field a defeated man. At least he won't be serenaded in a derogatory manner by his own student body.
Breaks my heart to say it. Prove me wrong boys.
Notre Dame 23