SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -It's easy to understand why Notre Dame is 0-3 for the second time in school history. The Fighting Irish are last in the nation in rushing offense and total offense, are among the worst teams at stopping the run and have nearly twice as many punts as they do points.
What isn't so easy to understand is how a team went so quickly from receiving consecutive Bowl Championship Series berths to becoming the butt of late night talk show jokes.
After last week's 38-0 loss to struggling Michigan, the question the media and fans were asking is: does this Irish squad have any talent?
The answer, experts say, is yes - but not enough in the junior and senior classes.
``I don't think they have as much talent as the teams they've played - certainly not among the upper classmen,'' Rivals.com recruiting analyst Bobby Burton said.
Coach Charlie Weis said he understands why some people are questioning his team's talent level.
``Right now if I were looking at them and watching how we're playing, I can see how they can make statements like that,'' he said. ``But I obviously feel different about this team.''
NFL draft analyst Gil Brandt said he recalls a conversation with Weis at the Super Bowl in Detroit in 2006 when Weis said he was worried about the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
``Here's a guy that was coming off a great year and he was really concerned about what was going to happen because of the fact he did not think they had the guys there that could make them competitive,'' Brandt said.
Weis said he doesn't recall the conversation.
The Irish do have some talent among their fifth-year seniors, Brandt said. He has fifth-year senior John Carlson rated as the top tight end in next year's draft. He also has center John Sullivan and safety Tom Zbikowski highly rated and had praise for defensive end Trevor Laws.
``But they just don't have the talent levels in the juniors and seniors in my estimation that you need to play against all these good teams,'' he said.
The reason for that is two years of bad recruiting in Tyrone Willingham's final full recruiting class and Weis' first class when he was finishing up as the New England Patriots' offensive coordinator.
On the day Notre Dame signed 17 players in February 2004, CSTV recruiting analyst Tom Lemming called it worst class for the Irish in at least 20 years. He now says it was even worse than that. The next year's class, which was a hybrid of Willingham and Weis recruiting, wasn't much better, again finishing out of the top 20.
``One bad year is real bad, but it's not disastrous. Two is disastrous,'' Lemming said. ``When you have all your talent in your freshman and sophomore classes, you're going to suffer. And you're going to lose to real good programs.''
Still, that doesn't explain how the Irish are 12 1/2-point underdogs at home Saturday to Michigan State (3-0), a program that has posted one winning season in the past five years. The only time in recent memory the Irish were bigger underdogs at home was in 2005 against No. 1 USC, when they were 13-point underdogs in a game they lost 34-31.
Two substandard recruiting years also doesn't explain why they have looked so absolutely inept. Even bad teams score touchdowns on occasion, and even bad teams manage positive yardage. Bad teams can block on at least some plays.
``You look at everyone on the offensive line, they were all highly recruited players,'' said Max Emfinger, editor of National Blue Chips. ``Jimmy Clausen's running for his life on every play. It's like a sieve.''
What might be most worrisome for Notre Dame fans, though, is that the game against the Spartans might be Notre Dame's best chance to win until early November. Notre Dame's next four games are at Purdue (3-0), at UCLA (2-1), at home against No. 14 Boston College (3-0) and at home against No. 1 USC (2-0). The Irish are surely to be underdogs in each.
Weis said there are many reasons why the Irish have struggled, but he believes the problems can be fixed.
``I didn't turn into a crummy coach overnight, my staff didn't turn crummy overnight and the players didn't turn crummy overnight either,'' he said. ``There's a whole bunch of problems that are all involved right there. I think we're going to be judged from where it goes from here. And let's face it, it doesn't get much lower than where you are right now.''

Recent NCAAF Discussions

ACC Conference Preview on Mon, Jul 2016 by Blade
Handicapping 2016 Win Totals on Mon, Jul 2016 by Blade
Big 12 Conference Betting Preview on Mon, Jul 2016 by Blade
2016 College Conference Previews on Sun, Jul 2016 by Blade
Advertisement

NCAAF Headlines

More inNCAAF News  
Advertisement

NCAAF Top Stories

Thumbnail Arkansas Season Win Total Prediction Few teams in college football ended the 2015 season with more momentum than the Arkansas Razorbacks. Now that the word is out, though,...
Thumbnail Iowa Win Total Prediction Following a Big Ten West Division Championship in 2015, can the Iowa Hawkeyes put together another big year in 2016?
Thumbnail Washington State Win Total Prediction After winning 10 games a year ago, will the Washington State Cougars build off their 2015 campaign or take a step back in 2016?
Thumbnail Oklahoma State Season Win Total Prediction Even in the pass-happy Big 12, a true contender for the conference championship must gain tough yards on the ground. That explains precisely where Oklahoma...
Thumbnail Wisconsin Win Total Prediction After a 10-win season in 2015, can the Wisconsin Badgers make a push for the Big Ten Championship in 2016?
More inNCAAF Articles  

NCAAF Team Pages

Advertisement