Building A Case

Charlie Weis sounded like a lawyer making an opening argument for a client the public has already found guilty when answering a question about his now No. 9 Notre Dame football team and its standing regarding the Bowl Championship Series. Is it a plea he believes passionately, or is it the one he is being paid to make? It's obviously one he has stock in.

"I think that when you win a game the way we did (Saturday), I think that's a positive, not a negative," Weis answered Sunday, the day after the Irish's dramatic 20-17 win over UCLA. "Look at the flip side of this one. I mean, look at the flip side of this one. I think it's almost humorous, if you go win a game by three touchdowns and then no one makes a big deal out of it, you didn't win by enough. But if you win a game on the last play of the game, what a great win.

"I don't know which is the better, but any time we go into a game, we're trying to play as best we can," Weis continued. "We didn't come into the game intending to throw a touchdown at the end of the game to win. But the way it worked out in this instance, we were very fortunate to win the game at all, let alone decide how many points we're going to win the game by. Just the fact we won and how we won I think sent a very positive message."

Well the jury, or the voters didn't agree, as the Irish dropped a spot from eight in the second release of the BCS standings. Good thing the final verdict won't be in for another six weeks, so Weis and his team have time to build a stronger case.

Notre Dame's (6-1) embarrassing 47-21 loss to No. 2 Michigan at home the third week of the season was like a crime that can't be forgotten. Then of course there was the Michigan State game and Saturday's UCLA escape that add evidence to the fact that the Irish don't deserve to be the country's top-ranked one-loss team. They are currently behind No. 5 Auburn, No. 6 Florida and No. 7 Texas. No. 10 California is trying to build its own case.

It's not fair, but the bad outweighs the good, and in this case the good is an impressive 14-10 win in a tough environment to open the season at Georgia Tech, and a 41-17 thumping of Penn State who played No. 1 Ohio State and the Wolverines a lot tougher than that.

In Weis' statement, he says he doesn't know which is better, a comfortable 21-point win nobody is talking about or an amazing last-second victory. Well when it comes against a weaker opponent, it's the prior. And the reason nobody is talking about it, is because that is what you are supposed to do. You can't say good job to somebody after they do what they are expected to do. You give kudos after expectations are exceeded.

In the college-football world you are guilty until proven innocent. To prove worthiness, Notre Dame is going to have to convincingly pummel upcoming opponents Navy, North Carolina, Air Force and Army. Big wins there will maybe sway the voters a tad. This is becoming a tough group to impress.

The case then can go in another direction. Hit the voters with paper work by showing improvement in the national-statistical rankings. Today, the Irish rank 34th nationally in total offense, 61st in total defense and 35th in turnover margin. Those sound more like numbers from a middle-of-the-pack team, not one trying to slip back into the National Championship hunt. Notre Dame isn't a mediocre team, they are much better than that, but the voters need to see numbers. There is no more mooching off last season's success.

Then hope for evidence beyond internal control, like losses to teams ranked ahead, and wins by team's the Irish defeated.

Lastly it will be time to drop the big piece of evidence, the rabbit out of the hat, the bombshell. A victory over a hopefully a still undefeated USC team to end the regular season in Los Angeles.

The case doesn't look good right now, but it's far from over.


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