Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Halfway, So Far | by Jay

The last half of the season is shaping up: three expected wins, and three legitimate challenges. Wherever you stand on progress to date with this Irish squad -- whether you're more frustrated, or more pleased -- your assumptions will be tested down the stretch.

• 7. The Veterans of Irish Wars on each sideline, and one in the booth. Frankly, this weekend's game should be the easiest of the season. The Huskies rank 90th or worse in 19 different statistical categories, and the miasma extends to offense, defense, special teams, and everywhere in between. This is a bad team.

• 8. I know a lot of nervous chatter cropped up following Boston College's defeat of Virginia Tech last weekend, but I think it would be foolish to not identify Pittsburgh as the greater and more immediate challenge. Back in the preseason we tagged Pitt as having the second-best collection of talent on our schedule, and now they've rattled off five wins in a row, including an upset of South Florida. That opening day loss to Bowling Green is now looking like a startup cough rather than a blown engine. The #17 Panthers will be tough.

• 9. Speaking of the turf-defilers...the reason I'm not bowled over just yet by BC is the fact that they've feasted on 3 pansies, barely beat a lousy NC State (scored with :23 left to win it), and went 1-1 in tight games against Georgia Tech and Va Tech, the only two decent teams they've faced. Yes, it's Boston College, yes, I know they always play us like it's the finals of the Extreme Activities Competition, and yes, I know we haven't beaten them in five games. But for right now, I'll reserve judgment until after they play North Carolina and Clemson, which are between now and our date with them. I put them in the challenge bin, but behind Pitt and Southern Cal.

• 10-11. Two gimmes in Navy and Syracuse. (I know what you're can you say that, Jay, after what happened last year? Well, if the odds of Navy beating Notre Dame are usually miniscule, then the odds of them doing it two years in a row -- without Paul Johnson, to boot -- are microscopic. Yes, I know they beat Wake Forest, but they also lost to Duke.) As for Syracuse, even the mediocre reviews for "The Express" are better than the product the Orange(men) are putting on the field this year.

• 12. Southern Cal. Demolished Washington State in a game that could have been 100-0; rebounded nicely from the inQuizzisition; and will be, as expected, the toughest game of the year for the Irish.

So don't get too overwrought about the self-destruction of teams we've already played (noting full well that everybody we played lost one last weekend)...instead, look ahead. We've got six games, and three fine challenges left to prove the mettle of this Irish squad.