Daily Domer: Rubber-Necking the Irish
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The numbers are fluid, but if you search stories on the web for the past two weeks you will find that no head coach, with the exception of Florida's Urban Meyer, is written about more than Charlie Weis. And if you were to eliminate the stories that pertain to Meyer possibly leaving the Brigadoon that is Gainesville for the "Deadliest Catch" climes of South Bend, then Weis may be number one.
Nick Saban. Mack Brown. Brian Kelly. The Patterson/Petersen duo, Gary and Chris. None of them have had even half the stories being written about them that Weis does even though all five of them have guided their teams to undefeated seasons thus far. Weis' team, as you know, is but 6-4.
Of course, Weis is a hot topic because he is on a very hot seat. But so is Mark Mangino. Dan Hawkins. Al Groh. Steve Kragthorpe. None but Mangino even merit a mention on "SportsCenter" and the Kansas coach is only drawing attention because his players, mired in a five-game losing streak, have suddenly realized that he is allegedly abusive.
Hey, I have to be here (notice the name of this column). But you don't. Nor does ESPN radio, which led off its 4 p.m. broadcast on Wednesday with a debate on whether "Notre Dame is the best coaching job in the country" (I imagine if you asked Weis his opinion this week, you'd be met with a sarcastic scowl).
Granted, when the nation's most loved and hated program is in disarray, everyone slows down to gawk at the carnage. If it were just about an overweight coach with one foot in the grave, Mangino would be getting equal time on ESPN. But he isn't.
Notre Dame has been an average football program, in terms of its won-loss record, this entire decade (70-49 since 2000). In fact, the 2000s' mark the first decade that the Irish have failed to finish in the top five of at least one final A.P. poll. And maybe if the Irish throw together a couple more decades in a row like the present one, the program will indeed have only a vestigial link to college football supremacy.
But in 2009, people still care. Some care because they love Notre Dame and not an insignificant number of people care because they despise the school. "It's like the Yankees," says senior defensive end John Ryan.
Except that the Yankees are World Series champions.
Will the Irish ever win another national championship?
Who knows? What I do know is that people have been posing that question as far back as when Knute Rockne perished in a plane crash in 1931.
Senior wide receiver Robby Parris met the media on Tuesday night wearing a pair of shoulder pads underneath his standard-issue green ND polo shirt. Just because. That's Robby Parris.
Running back James Aldridge, also a senior, is listed as a starter at fullback this week. Aldridge has not started a game this season. His last carry came five games ago versus USC, on a fourth-and-1 call in the third quarter that went for no gain.
Notre Dame is a six-point favorite on Saturday versus a Connecticut team that has lost all five of its games by four points or less. Also, the Huskies are coming off a bye week. Additionally, all five schools that beat the Huskies are either ranked or received votes in this week's AP poll: Cincinnati is No. 5, Pittsburgh is No. 8, Rutgers is No. 25, North Carolina received the most votes (144) of any unranked team, and West Virginia received eight votes. Either Vegas truly believes that the Irish will come out fired up for the seniors' final home game, or they're counting on you to believe that.
A lot of people know that Stanford went for two against USC last week leading 48-21 midway through the fourth quarter, and most people also know that the Trojans stopped the play. If you have not seen the play (I was unable to find it on YouTube), it is worth noting that Toby Gerhart (called "pure muscle" by his girlfriend, a Stanford swimmer) took a handoff and was met head-on at the goal line by USC's Taylor Mays, who knocked him backward.
Gerhart is a Heisman candidate and a deserving one. But it bears noting that perhaps the only offensive player who knocked heads at full speed with the 6-3, 230-pound Mays and got the better of it was Golden Tate.
Just another piece of the legend.
Gerhart and Tate, by the way, have as good a balance as any two players you'll see in college football. The sideline "tackles" Tate as often as a defensive back actually does.