They’re just numbers, but in a matter of two days, “20-3” has taken Notre Dame football from a former powerhouse to a BCS contender. After the game, Lou “Notre-Dame-is-going-to-the-national-championship-every-year” Holtz yet again extolled the promise of the Irish’s season. During ABC’s broadcast, Brent Musburger suggested Notre Dame could now run the table. “There isn’t a game they can’t win,” to loosely paraphrase his words.
Heck, even Mark May, critic of all things Notre Dame, admitted that the Irish looked different and would be special to watch this season.
All of this because of two numbers.
Let’s consider some other numbers:
18, 9, 6, 13.
Those are the rankings of Michigan, Stanford, Oklahoma, and USC respectively, four of the remaining nine games on Notre Dame’s schedule. We also play a budding Pitt team, a historically tough Miami team, and BYU, which is nothing to snuff at. Here’s another number for you:
Seven is the number of years (before MSU) in which we did not beat a single ranked opponent.
Yes, history and stats are no indication of how a season will progress, but these numbers should give Notre Dame fans pause.
Undoubtedly, Notre Dame’s victory over MSU was a signature—an overall team win that showed this Irish squad is head-and-shoulders above the previous two Kelly squads. But our first two wins of this season, against a tricky but beatable Navy offense and a determined but under talented Purdue squad, don’t, in my mind, make us the contender that ESPN and many Irish fans think we are.
Lest we forget: we have a freshman quarterback and an already weak and now depleted secondary. Yes, our front seven on defense is strong against the run, but Denard “I-put-the-team-on-my-back-better-than-broken-leg-Greg-Jennings” Robinson isn’t just a runner. And basically dismantle a team on his own. (Certainly we haven’t forgotten last year’s double-comeback Michigan victory.)
My point is this: hope is a dangerous thing, particularly at Notre Dame. Are there reasons to fantasize about what could be this season? Sure.
But aren’t there just as many years of losing to remind us that we shouldn’t mistake a strong start for a strong season?
Let’s not book our tickets for Miami just yet. (Maybe after a win this weekend though…)