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The luck of the Irish has changed for the better. I am not a Notre Dame fan. I repeat, I am not a Notre Dame fan. And while I have no beef with ND, I need it to be known from the start of this article that I am not a fan of the Irish. Why do I feel the need to so emphatically make this declaration clear? Because after you read this, you will swear that I grew up in South Bend, graduated from the fine institution which is home to there, and have posters of Touchdown Jesus and Tim Brown in my room. No folks, I am not a fan of Notre Dame, but I am hear to say that they will be the biggest surprise of the 2010 college football season. That's right folks, ND is back.
For the last five seasons, I have made it very clear that I did not like former Irish head man, Charlie Weis. There are some people that just plain rub me the wrong way, and Weis was that guy from day one. College coaches and NFL coaches are just different, and Weis is an NFL guy. On top of the known fact that college coaches and NFL coaches rarely work out when they are coaching in the wrong league, Weis looked silly to me in hooded sweatshirts and usually with a clueless look on his face. I just didn't like him, and the last time I checked, I didn't have to.
In the end, I was right about the Weis dislikeness. Yes, in the end, he led Notre Dame to a dismal record of 35-27, with no BCS wins, and no national title contentions. The only bowl win in five seasons came against Hawaii. Basically, under Weis, I never got the feeling - even after his 19-6 start in years one and two - that he was the man for the job. In the end, I was right.
While running Fans25 the last four years, I have had so many people tell me "you just don't like Notre Dame," to which I would always reply, "Notre Dame is fine. I just don't like Charlie Weis." Now, those same folks will see that I wasn't kidding. Now ND has a coach I respect, and they will see that I don't "hate" Notre Dame.
I get an opposite feeling for the Irish under new Head Coach Brian Kelly (34-6 at Cincinnati) than I ever got for Weis. I see Kelly as the opposite of Charlie Weis. He is sharp, he is quick, and he wears shirts that are tucked in and look professional. He gives me the feeling - unlike Weis - that he wants to put the fear of Notre Dame back into people. He is not there to show that he has been to the NFL and thus is superior to his college coaching mates. Nope, he is a college coach in his prime, and you can see his appreciation to be handed the reins of such a storied program.
I am not saying that Kelly is going to win every game this season. In fact, I think 2010 will be a bumpy road at times. But bookmark this article, and save it for a day many years from now. I am saying right now - in this read - that Kelly will lead ND back to a national championship, and it will happen sooner rather than later. He has every resource he could possibly need, with the most valuable resource being the one between his own ears. He is smart, and he is fiery, and those are two really good traits to have as a college coach.
One thing that will never come in shortage at Notre Dame is fine athletes for the football team. No matter the coach, the Irish have long been able to pick just about whoever they wanted (nationally) to come play there. And while Florida and Alabama and USC and Texas have all scoured the nation for the cream of the crop, ND has still landed more than its fair share over the last few seasons. If nothing else, at least Weis didn't leave the cupboard completely bare. Kelly will have some horses.
He will be breaking in a new quarterback in Dayne Crist (sophomore), but developing quarterbacks is something that Kelly is known for. The offensive line will also need to get used to new schemes. Basically, when there is a staff overall such as this one, it doesn't necessarily matter who is back as far as starters go because there is so much learning to be done, anyway. There will be a totally new system to take in for everyone.
The schedule situation is a little better than the player situation. There are high points and low points, but overall it sets up for a big year. Having two home games to start the year is nice, but Purdue and Michigan are also two teams that could make you start 0-2. However, I see ND winning both as the environment at Notre Dame Stadium will be insane, and neither the Boilermakers nor Wolverines scare me that much. Michigan State away in week three could be the first Kelly loss. Outside of a trip to Boston College, the only other true road game is the season finale at USC (Army and Navy are at neutral sites). I see just five or six games on the schedule that are losable. A nine-win season would not be that unrealistic of an expectation, in my opinion.
Everyone knows that half of life is confidence in how a given situation is approached. And everyone knows that half of a team's strength comes from them believing in who is guiding them. Well, I have not been within 400 miles of a Notre Dame locker room in the past five seasons, but I am willing to bet that there were many folks in the room that did not have confidence in Charlie Weis. That will change under Brian Kelly.
You will now see a team that will be playing while believing in the system. Why? Because the system going in at Notre Dame will win. It has won. I didn't know Cincinnati had football a few years ago. Next thing you know they were in the Orange Bowl. The players know that. They will play with organization, and urgency, and mainly they will be playing with confidence.
This has to be a truly exciting time if you are a diehard fan of Notre Dame. For several seasons now your team has not been very good, and the reason started at the top. Now though, you have a coach who is very bright, and has a lot of energy. He will do a good job, I can feel it in my bones. He is the anti-Weis!
Prepare fans, you will be seeing and hearing a lot about Notre Dame in 2010, and in the years to come...
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