On a recent podcast (April 1 edition), noted Notre Dame honk Beano Cook boldly--but not surprisingly--decreed the Fightin' Irish would be in the hunt for the national title in 2009.
Beano is 137 years old, so Homerism was willingly to cut the old man some slack for mistaking 2009 with 1969. However, when Methuselah's ESPN colleague Ivan Maisel piped up in something close to agreement, Homerism started to wonder if Ron Powlus' biggest fan was onto something.
The source of Beano and Maisel's enthusiasm originated in part with Pear Bryant's recruiting success. Yet, they seemed more excited about ND's schedule.
Hold on, I thought, these two have lost it. After all, Homerism tends to remember the Notre Dame of old, a team that arrogantly defied convention and stayed independent, enabling the Irish to play a bevy of college football heavyweights each year. Sure, there were always the Service academy games, but you couldn't really knock the Irish's willingness to schedule as tough as they come.
This year, though, ND will be playing a sheep in wolf's clothing--lots of big names, but little overall challenge. Admit it, Irish fans, a schedule that includes Purdue, Pittsburgh and Washington sounds much tougher than it actually is.
ND has the usual toughie with USC, but this looks like a bit of a transition year for the Trojans and the game is at South Bend. Boston College rolls into Notre Dame Stadium the next week, and despite the success of "Fredo" against the Irish this decade, the Eagles also look to be in for a down year. The toughest road game is probably Michigan--not particularly worrisome.
Keep in mind that Homerism isn't accusing ND of whimping out. The Irish usually have most of their games scheduled well in advance, so it's not really ND's fault that teams like the Apple Staters have fallen off the map since the contracts were signed.
But Homerism is accusing the national media (well in advance) of overhyping the Irish after ND starts the season undefeated through five games. Trust me, by mid-October, the papers and Web sites will be loaded with "wake up the echoes" headlines. ND will be a better team in 2009 than it was in 2008. But that's still not a squad that will be ready to compete for the national title.