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Hot Seat in South Bend

Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Charlie Weis took over the Notre Dame program in 2005, and in his first two seasons at the helm, set coaching records with a combined 19 victories and two BCS bowl appearances.

Of course, that all seems like an eon ago doesn't it?

The Irish only won three games in 2007, finishing with the worst record (3-9) in school history. The 2008 campaign was better, with seven victories, capped off with a bowl win over Hawaii (49-21) that ended a long drought of postseason futility. Still, there was a stunning loss to Syracuse (one of the worst teams in the FBS) in South Bend, and major inconsistency in the second half of the season.

After posting the most wins ever in his first two years on the job, Weis followed with the most losses (15) in any two-year span at the school.

So, what does 2009 have in store for the Irish, and will Weis be around to guide the program in 2010?

Will Charlie Weis be around to guide the Irish in 2010?
The schedule is certainly inviting this year, and being alive in the BCS bowl picture may just be enough to keep Weis employed.

Breaking it down, the Irish open up the 2009 campaign at home against one of the weaker WAC programs, Nevada. The Wolf Pack should pose little problem for ND, especially in South Bend.

Notre Dame then hits the road to Ann Arbor for the annual showdown with Michigan. The Wolverines are still in rebuilding mode, and although Rich Rodriguez has some pieces in place now, Notre Dame has the talent to win this one.

Michigan State is next on the docket, and the Spartans must replace a good portion of their offense, including star-power at the quarterback and tailback positions. Another win for the Irish could have this team brimming with confidence.

Next up is a road trip to West Lafayette and the Purdue Boilermakers, who are under new management. Notre Dame will get another "W" heading into a three- game homestand that features Washington, USC and Boston College.

The Huskies should present little resistance, leaving the Irish with a possible 5-0 mark heading into the clash with the Trojans. This is probably a loss for the hometown team, which has lost to USC seven straight times, but look for the Irish to play tough.

The homestand concludes with Boston College, and the Eagles may just catch Notre Dame on either an emotional high or low, resulting in yet another Boston College win in South Bend.

That, however, may be the last time the Irish taste defeat in the regular season. Notre Dame closes out the year with Washington State, Navy, Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Stanford.

The Cougars are in disarray and will pose no problem for the Irish, who will play that game in the Alamodome in San Antonio.

The Midshipmen are next on the docket and again will not be much of a threat.

The game at Pittsburgh will be tough, as the Panthers should have one of the best defenses in the country this year. However, a narrow Notre Dame win is likely.

Connecticut is an up-and-coming team in the Big East, but the Huskies have lost one of the nation's premier tailbacks in Donald Brown, and will be traveling to South Bend in late November.

The regular season concludes with a trip to Palo Alto against Stanford. The Irish will have a BCS bowl bid in their sights and should be able to close out with a win over the Cardinal.

Of course, all of the above represents the best-case scenario for Weis' program, and we all know that his team has not enjoyed much success lately.

Realistically, this schedule could not have come at a better time for Weis, who is perhaps on his last leg in South Bend.

He benefited from outstanding talent on offense his first two seasons, and it remains to be seen if players like Brady Quinn and Jeff Samardzija made Weis look good, or vise versa.

Improvement on the offensive side of things this year should be attainable, with the likes of quarterback Jimmy Clausen, wideouts Golden Tate and Michael Floyd and versatile tailback Armando Allen back in the fold. The offensive line also returns four of its five starters, and that could be a big factor as well.

Clausen showed flashes of brilliance last season as a sophomore, completing over 60 percent of his passes for over 3,100 yards. His 25 TDs passes were fine, but they were offset by a whopping 17 interceptions. He will need to make better decisions with the football in 2009.

Still, Tate and Floyd represent a dangerous duo on the outside. As a sophomore, Tate (5-11, 195) led the team in receptions (58), receiving yards (1,080) and TDs (10) and is poised for another big season. Just a freshman, the 6-3 Floyd (48 receptions, for 719 yards and seven TDs) was an impact player down the field as well. Allen led the team in rushing (585 yards), but also hauled in 50 receptions and combined for five TDs.

It remains to be seen if Weis can get the most out of this year's group in South Bend.

His job could very well depend on it.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.
Scott Haynes

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