Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Highest Expectation Must Come From Within... | by George

Before we get down to the business at hand, I was brushing up on Lou Holtz's book Wins, Losses, & Lessons, when I came across a passage that I hope finds a way into the locker of many of Notre Dame's relocated/new players this year, like certain key special teams players, defensive lineman, linebackers, fullbacks, and offensive lineman: "Inexperience is an excuse put forth by people who know they're going to lose."

So while the preseason legends grow, so the countdown continues...

#9 - Expect To Be Better Than Expected

On the heels of the prediction made the other day by the esteemed Dr. Lou, resident college football crank Beano Cook also went on the record with the opinion that Notre Dame could be a logical pick for a National Championship Game berth, due to mainly to thier "easy" schedule.

Now, I can't really get on the soapbox and defend the scheduling tendencies of Kevin White, the recently relocated athletic director who crafted such gems as playing Washington State in San Antonio. Dates with Nevada and Connecticut don't add luster to the schedule either, and thanks to historic craters hit in 2008 nobody expects much out of what would normally be quality opponents Michigan & Washington. Boston College, Michigan State, Navy, & Pittsburgh aren't top 10 teams, but they aren't Bowl Subdivision directional schools either. This year's Notre Dame schedule is the quintessential "B" student - it does enough to get by, but hardly stands out in a crowd.

The point is that Notre Dame hasn't done enough to merit the pats on the back that seem to go with the recent surge of, "Don't worry, you'll be better than every team on the schedule except for USC, so just expect to take 10 or 11 wins without much of an effort." How many times in the past five years has the BCS tricked people into this exact same kind of "shine by way of overcoming very low expectations" for teams like West Virginia, Louisville, and even Rutgers; for the record, I don't think it's a coincidence that all of those teams are in the Big East, a league Notre Dame may find itself increasingly married to on the football field (yet another ingenius innovation from Dr. Blanco).

Here's what Notre Dame should be expecting- no talking up how deep and experience they've become. No awards for being "almost" a nine-win team a year ago. No quotes about how it's only natural to assume they'll be the better team every Saturday with that one annoying Southern California exemption. They have to expect everyone's best shot (because they're going to get it) and respond in kind. And for the love of all things holy, do not fall backwards into the thinking about how there's a bunch of players who still need time to grow, time to gain experience, and how it would be a nice achievement to go 9-3. I'm not saying 9-3 wouldn't be a successful year on the face of things - I'm saying the expectation that Notre Dame can coast to a 9-win year and a January 1 bowl berth on the strength of the Notre Dame name alone needs to be just that - an "expectation" made by people who have no idea what they're talking about, or how good this team can be.

In other words, let everybody else waste their breath (and their blog space) speculating on how good the talent might be or how manageable the schedule is. Notre Dame needs to get back to one mindset: expecting to be a lot better than people expected.


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