We have been here before. The Irish have been on the edge of move from the middle of the pack to the front. But, Notre Dame keeps stopping themselves.
Since Notre Dame defeated #1 Florida State in 1993 to become the top team in the country themselves, Notre Dame has received numerous chances to seize the spotlight. But like the falling week against Boston College in 1993, the Fighting Irish have fallen flat on their face.
In 2002, a ‘Return to Glory’ march towards the national title picture was within Notre Dame’s grasp. Then the great molder of men, Tyrone Willingham, throws on some Kelly Green jerseys for a game against the Boston College Eagles and Notre Dame literally fumbled its season away.
Fast-forward three years and Charlie Weis has whipped all of that misery away with the hope of another great season. Brady Quinn drove down and scored with only minutes to go to end USC’s 27-game win streak. Until a 4th and 9 pass from Matt Leinart to Dwyane Jarrett turned that hope into unbelievable heartache.
It then took Notre Dame six years for the Fighting Irish to have a game as meaningful when they hosted USC in the first night game at Notre Dame Stadium in years. Notre Dame was hot. USC was good to mediocre. Again, Notre Dame fell back to earth. Again, the fans were let down.
And yet here we are again. 19 years after the Boston College. 10 years after the infamous Green Jersey game. 7 years after the ‘Bush Push’ game. 11 months since last year’s night game. Is the past behind us?
Dozens of recruits will be on-campus to see this game. What will they see? Of course, they will see world class facilities, both academic and athletic. They will hear reasons as to why they fit into Notre Dame’s playbooks. But, what will theyseeon the field?
Maybe this is giving this game too much credit and thus giving Notre Dame too much credit for their 3-0 start. But if Notre Dame starts 4-0, it could clear the way for a BCS season and beyond. Those recruits may choose Notre Dame. The whole perception of the program may change if Notre Dame can win a “program defining game”.
So, when the Irish and Wolverines take the field tomorrow, it is more than just a game. It is a battle for survival in the current college football world. It is a demonstration of Brian Kelly’s success in the future. It is a small peak in Notre Dame’s destiny. If you are going to the game tomorrow (or even if you are at home), remember that this is the house that Rockne built. Not a golf outing. Not the Kentucky Derby or a place for online shoe shopping (like I read on a discussion board recently). Take a StaND!