Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Preview | Notre Dame at (5) USC

Depending on the articles read and lists compiled, several rivalries will appear as the “greatest”. Be it the bias of the author and his or her loyalties holding weight, difference of opinion will bring about a different order. But without a doubt, USC and Notre Dame is the greatest intersectional rivalry in the nation, because of the simple fact that they share no conference and exist in separate regions of the country. Even so, the Trojans and Fighting Irish will collide on a football field for the 8oth time, in a series only discontinued by world war, and never because one program or the other declined in prowess.

We can all give our opinions of great rivalries, and even my own bias will surface. But I challenge anyone, and everyone, to give me another college football rivalry where the programs combine for greater history and achievements on a football field. The Irish and Trojans have amassed 23 national championships and 14 Heisman Trophy winners. The rivalry produced more All-Americans and NFL draft selections than any other. These college gridiron greats have gone on to excel on professional fields, yielding more Pro-Bowl selections and members of the NFL Hall of Fame than any other rivalry can boast. The names are as legendary as the coaches, and each visitor will grasp that legend by touring the opponent’s trophy halls, before ever taking the field. Today’s players are an extension of yesterday, preparing to gallop with ghosts on a modern surface. They are new faces aligned with old, each looking to carve their names aside rivalry greats. They are young men hauling the pride of generations past, existing beneath the Golden Dome and behind the Walls of Troy. It's more than just one game in a college football season. It is college football. It's USC and Notre Dame.

Last Week: L-Syracuse

Notre Dame enters the 80th meeting as a program in trouble. Even with high expectations, the Irish have struggled. They’ve defeated just one program with a winning record (Navy), and faced the embarrassment last week of losing to an 8-loss team (Syracuse) for the first time in their long history. Charlie Weis promised 9 wins in 2008 and he’s currently stuck on 6, with only their greatest rival remaining. It’s a promise he couldn’t keep, and even more unpredictable was that the Irish would be pelted with snowballs in their own stadium, and by their own fans. We have a coach and a program desperate for a quality win to legitimize the season and possibly save a job.

Last week: Bye

Southern California will be the best team Notre Dame has faced on the '08 slate. And to make it more difficult for the Domers, it’s a hungry bunch, still hoping for pieces to fall that would launch them into the National Championship game. If there were ever a game for style points, a nationally televised prime time affair with a storied program is it. Some say there’s that “rivalry” factor, where the underdog will excel and shock the world. But though the Trojans are known for sleeping on teams that are average or worse, they’re always fully awake for Notre Dame. This is a USC farewell to seniors playing their last home game in the Los Angeles Coliseum. It’s a senior class that has never lost to the Irish, and looking to continue the trend. Notre Dame was shutout 38-0 in South Bend last year, and will face an improved Trojans defense on Saturday night.

Analysis: It's no secret that each team that somehow managed to slow the Trojans were either equipped with a productive rushing attack or defensively found a way to limit the USC stable of backs from consistently chewing chunks of yardage. Notre Dame provides neither, as the Domers rank 91st in the country running the ball, and 58th defending it. Unless there is that "luck of the Irish", it can get ugly, as in previous games played in this series and venue. In the last 3 trips to the Coliseum, the Irish have been outscored 129-47.

All Time Series: Irish lead 42-32-5
Streak: Trojans won 6

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