Date With Willingham Likely Not Revealing --- Win, Lose or Ty
There's nothing like a healthy dose of the Huskies to cushion Notre Dame's fall after a 29-24 loss to then-No. 22 North Carolina on Oct. 11. How can the Irish ease themselves back into their second-half schedule after an idle week? There may be no better way than an all-expenses paid trip to Seattle for a date with winless Washington.
I wrote a positive review of Notre Dame's at midseason for the Oct. 16 edition of the Sun-Times. It drew a mixed reaction. Some agree with the premise of the piece, that if the Irish continue to improve they will be back on track to become nationally relevant again next year and in 2010. Others believe --- and reasonably so --- that Notre Dame's weak schedule is the biggest factor in their 4-2 record. Fair enough.
If skeptics thought wins against San Diego State, Michigan, Purdue and Stanford came easy, wait until they get a look at woebegone Washington. How bad are the Huskies? They have been outscored 152-82 at home and are ranked last in the nation in pass efficiency defense and 117th in overall defense, which means Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen, engineer of the nation's 17th ranked passing offense, should be licking his chops.
The Irish were early 12-point favorites, which tells you all you need to know about the current sorry state of the program Ty Willingham took over after he was asked to leave South Bend. Although Washington athletics director Scott Woodward has said that he doesn't anticipate making any changes during the season, Willingham's departure seems so set in stone that Woodward may as well go ahead and get it over with. That's how hopeless the situation has become.
"There are still games on the schedule," Willingham said after a 34-13 loss to Oregon State on Saturday dropped his record at Washington to 11-31 and 2-15 in his last 17 games. "We've got to find a way out of this gloom and doom."
A win over Notre Dame might be a way out, but it's hard to imagine it considering the Huskies began last week's game with a delay penalty and ended it by failing to score despite four tries from the 1-yard line.
More likely, the Irish will pad their record before a key stretch that could ultimately define their season. A home date with Pittsburgh on Nov. 1 followed by a road game against Boston College should be much more revealing than this Saturday in Seattle.
Expect another post tomorrow --- if not sooner.
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