The Fighting Irish play the University of Washington Huskies tomorrow night in Seattle, at 5:00 Pacific time on ESPN2 (more on that in a minute). Here are my quick hits on the Washington game, and this week it's all about the "W".
- W is for Washington, who is 0-6.
- W is for Willingham, coach of 0-6 Washington, who was fired from his job at Notre Dame and who is now dead man Walking at the U of W.
- W is for Weis, who succeeded Willingham at ND, and who is succeeding where Willingham couldn't.
- W is for the Whiner, Coach Boob Davie who failed at ND before Willingham and who will be calling the TV broadcast for ESPN2. I'm sure the execs at ESPN think that is just hilarious!
- W is for Winning, which Notre Dame is doing again this year.
- W is for Winless, like Washington and Willingham.
- W is for Wagering. The wagering on this game has moved the line in Washington's favor from +11 to +10.
- W is for Wise Guys, who like Washington to beat the spread.
- W is for Weather, which should be clear and cool (low 50's), with only a little Wind (8-9 mph).
- W is for Walk-on kicker who has gone from interhall ball to back-up for Walker in just a week!
- W is for "Who have they played?"
And while the Huskies have looked pathetic, one must take into account who they have played. According to Jeff Sagarin, Washington's schedule so far this year is ranked as the #1 toughest schedule in the country. Notre Dame's schedule is ranked 45th. Washington's six opponents have an average Sagarin ranking this week of 29th in the nation. Notre Dame's six games were against teams with an average Sagarin rank this week of 64th. The four teams the Irish have beaten rank, on average around #85. The two teams we lost to have an average rank of 23rd in the country, which is just slightly better than the average ranking of Stanford's whole schedule. That's right, the teams that have beaten Notre Dame rank only slightly better, on average, than the teams that have beaten Washington.
The best team Notre Dame has beaten was Stanford, ranked 51st. We beat them by 7 points. It just so happens that Stanford is the worst team that Washington played this year (by a significant margin), and they lost by just 7 points. Washington's players are not going to be awed by Notre Dame's talent. Notre Dame sits at #44 in the Sagarin rankings this week (one spot ahead of Cincinnati!). Five of Washington's six opponents are currently ranked higher than that (at 4, 18, 32, 33, and 35). Only Stanford was ranked below the Irish. So they are not going to be intimidated by us. I also expect Washington to play with a lot of fire and emotion. They have their backs against the wall, and they know that their coach is under serious fire. As disappointing as Willingham has been at UW, I have no doubt that their locker room is full of players who love their coach and who feel like they have to defend his honor against all the haters.
All I'm saying is - don't be surprised when the Dawgs don't roll over for us and instead put up a fight. They are playing at home, with their backs against the wall and they are used to playing (albeit losing to) quality teams. But it looks like the Irish will have good weather, a vulnerable opposing secondary, and a very fast artificial surface for Golden Tate and Michael Floyd to play on. I expect the Irish to win fairly comfortably. But they haven't really shown the killer instinct yet when it comes to putting teams away, so I won't be surprised if it's close enough to preserve some of Willingham's dignity.