SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis is hoping the Fighting Irish won’t feel quite at home Saturday in Texas.
He believes the novelty of traveling to San Antonio for a home game at the Alamodome will help the Irish guard against complacency against a Washington State (1-6) team that is struggling.
“This is the first time we’ve gone through one of these neutral-site games, and just the intrigue about how this is going to play out is exciting in its own right,” he said.
Notre Dame is expecting to play in front of a heavily Irish crowd. As of midday Tuesday, more than 50,000 tickets had been sold for the game, most of them to Notre Dame fans, said Josh Berlo, assistant athletic director.
Washington State coach Paul Wulff is not expecting a neutral crowd.
“If 60,000 people are there and 55,000 are rooting for Notre Dame, I think that will be a huge home-field advantage for them,” Wulff said. “I’m assuming that is what it is going to be.”
Weis believes some other factors will keep the 25th-ranked Irish (5-2) from getting too smug. For players such as left guard Chris Stewart, defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore and place-kicker Nick Tausch, it will be a chance to return to Texas to play in front of friends.
For the rest of the team, Weis sees it as a chance to get better in a lot of areas for a team that’s found itself in six straight games decided by a touchdown or less.
“We’re going have to go down there and be ready to go or else we’re going find ourselves in the same game that we’ve been playing in for the last month and a half,” Weis said.
Weis was reminded at his news conference Tuesday that at neutral-site games, fans frequently start rooting for the underdog if they can stay in the game.
“I’m not expecting that to happen,” he said.
Weis doesn’t plan to remind his players about last year’s game against Syracuse. The Irish were 19.5-point favorites against the Orange, but lost 24-23 after giving up two fourth-quarter touchdowns. It was the first time in the storied university’s history that they were beaten by an eight-loss team.
The Irish are 28.5-point favorites this week.
“We’re not talking about anyone from last year. We have enough problems of our own,” he said. “I think that we’re a different team than we were at any time last year.”
The Irish know that if they want to earn a Bowl Championship Series berth they have to win Saturday.
They need to be ranked in the top eight in the BCS standings to guarantee themselves a berth in a BCS bowl and in the top 14 with at least nine victories to be eligible.
Notre Dame was ranked 23rd in the BCS standings on Sunday.
“We’re not going to jump ahead of 10 teams in a week,” Weis said. “You want to get ahead of a couple of teams. Each week you want to get ahead of a couple more.”