I just read your piece entitled "Panic Sets in at Michigan and Notre Dame" at SI.com. While the column certainly has a catchy headline, your premise is just plain wrong.
Is there panic at Michigan? Yes. They were a Top 5 pre-season pick (even the Associated Press thought so!) and suffered an historically humiliating defeat to a Div-IAA opponent. They followed that with a whipping at the hands of an unranked team from the "soft" Pac-10. Their QB got hurt and their star running back is limping as well. Fans are calling for Lloyd Carr's head. There is indeed panic in Ann Arbor.
Is there "panic" in South Bend? No. For all the reasons you cite in your article, Irish fans knew that this would be a "rebuilding" year even if Coach Weis won't speak that word. We expected an improved defense under new defensive coordinator Corwin Brown. But we knew that we had to build a new offense from scratch, and that talent and experience in the offensive line was a real question. Certainly we were all hoping it wouldn't be this bad, but nothing that has happened is inducing panic. Puzzlement, concern, disappointment of course. But not panic.
The difference is that Notre Dame fans can see a light at the end of the tunnel. We know that this year may be rocky, but we have the coach we need, we have the young talent coming into the program. We know we are heading in the right direction.
Michigan fans know no such thing. The team they expected to challenge for a Big-10 Championship (if not more) is falling apart in front of their eyes and nobody saw it coming. Nobody warned them that the girders holding up their vaunted program were rusty and corroding. Nobody told them that Coach Carr has been getting his ass handed to him on the recruiting trail for the past few years. Nobody told them that Henne & Hart were no more than decent Big-10 players, and that the "talent" on the defensive side of the ball is no longer even that good. All this unexpected and disastrous bad news has set off a panic at UM. Coach Carr will lose his job and a new man will be brought in to pick up the pieces. Unfortunately for Wolverine fans, it's going to take a while to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, as Notre Dame fans know all too well.
So, Ralph, you're wrong to project Michigan's panic onto the Notre Dame Nation. We'll be fine. We'll take our lumps, but we have confidence that we'll emerge from our current trials a better program. Will we beat the Wolverines next week? Right now, I put our chances at 50-50, which is more optimistic than I was two weeks ago. Will we beat the Wolverines next year? And the year after that? And the year after that? I like our chances.
Monday, September 10, 2007