What Happened To ND Fans?

<P>What happened to the Notre Dame fan? While cruising the boards lately, I am kind of shocked that the annual ritual has died. What happened to the annual ritual? Usually around this time, the predictions of 6-6 start to turn to 8-4 or 9-3. By August, 10-2 looks like a real possibility. Right before the first game, you start playing it out in your mind. </P>

You know that you do this. I do it all the time. I start to convince myself that Notre Dame can go down to Tallahassee and beat those dad gum Seminoles. I tell myself that Michigan is overrated and they have to play at Notre Dame stadium. I know in my heart that USC just doesn't have it even when we play them in Troy. I tell myself that the BC game was a fluke last year (which it was) and that Green is gone and that was all they had.

I know Stanford is going to come in excited to play Notre Dame but Ty knows that Stanford doesn't have as much talent as Notre Dame and he knows where they are weak better than anyone. Pitt lost Bryant. Michigan State lost the last 5 games to Notre Dame but somehow scored more points. Purdue, come on, this Notre Dame of old, we kill Purdue. Navy, they are tough but they never win. Air Force, they play Notre Dame tough but they don't have the talent either. Rutgers, come on, just not going to happen. Maryland, they had a good team last year but it‘s still Maryland. Just shows what one motivated coach can do.

By the end of my "rational" thinking, I have ND going 12-0 and playing for the National Championship. O.K., raise your hand. I know you all have done this. I am not the only one. I see you hiding out there. You can't fool me because it's only natural. I can guarantee you that as much as I just poked fun of Rutgers, all of their fans have gone through the same thing. They probably don't predict 12-0 but have some thoughts of 10-2 or 9-3 season.

No disrespect to Rutgers at all. Just saying that it will take their coach a while to get there. To appease the Rutgers fans, at least your coach has them playing above their ability most days. You should hang your hat on that.

So what is the reality? Seriously, can this team go 12-0? You see coaches come in and start off with that magical season just like Maryland coach. Can this team go 12-0? I suppose it's possible but not likely.

I think to win a lot of games, you need a few things in place. One, you need a confident head coach that his players' trust and can motivate his team. Two, I think you need to play solid, fundamental football. Three, you need a lot of discipline (unless you are far more talented), Four, I think you need some strong team leadership. Fifth, you need to have some talent.. Sixth, you need to have a lot of luck. In many cases, the first 5 will keep you in a close game, it's usually the last one that can mean the difference in the final outcome of closely matched teams.

So let's look at it then. Does this team have a confident coach? I am going to say yes. Do they trust him and can he motivate? Early returns are yes but we have to wait and see. Do they play solid and fundamental football? Just not enough evidence but I do think they will be sound fundamentally.

Are they disciplined? Well, I know they haven't been in the past. Is there strong leadership? That is hard to say really. I don't think many quit on the team last year or in games so that is a positive. Do they have talent? This is also hard to know. Guys like Carlyle Holiday, Gerome Sapp, Cedric Hilliard, Arnaz Battle, Jordan Black, Ryan Grant, Carlos Pierre-Antoine and Mike McNair came in with all the hype of any player in the country. I don't think any of these players can say they have lived up to the hype (usually unfair) yet. That is not a slam on them, I feel many of them haven't had the chance to succeed.

The last question I think is an important. Is Ty Willingham lucky? I am going to guess if you can ever get a great coach into the comfort zone, they will laugh about the luck question. You work so hard to accomplish your goals and a lot of times the simple bounce of the football is the difference in the game. A half of a second can be the difference. We have seen it come down to an inch many times. I think there are a lot of coaches who would probably admit that luck has a lot to do with the game. You practice and you prepare to keep luck out of the game but luck creeps in and usually at just the wrong time.

I think luck has helped many coaches win a National Championship over the years. With the 85 scholarship limit, there just isn't a lot of difference in the quality of athletes from most top schools. You don't see many teams blowing out another quality team often. The margin for error is getting smaller and smaller every year. If you are not considered lucky, you have to find a way to overcome the luck of other teams as well.

Some might read this article and think I am crazy. You probably aren't far off from the truth if you feel that way. I don't think I am crazy to think that luck has a lot to do with college football and winning games. I am going to be very interested in watching to see if Willingham is lucky. If he is, he might win it sooner than some think. If he isn't, he might have to wait like Tom Osborne did.

I will say, I am surprised however. Usually by now, we have two or three prediciting a National Championship. We usually have at least 40 or so saying 1 loss, 2 losses. It appears everyone is going to listen to the national media this year. It appears everyone is too afraid to get burned once again. I am going to guess that Willingham is loving where these national media types are picking his team to finish. Who is going to be first on board with the annual ritual?

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