This weekend, Notre Dame‘s annual meeting with Southern California will commence from South Bend. It will be the 24th edition of this contest to be held inside Notre Dame Stadium. Over the years, the argument has been made that this game is no longer the big deal it once was. Sure this game may not be filled with Heisman candidates, and national championship hopes aren’t exactly riding on this rivalry (except for last year), but the Notre Dame-USC rivalry is still one of college football’s best.
This year’s game has it’s own interesting storylines…. Such as Notre Dame (4-2) still wanting to prove that they are among college football’s elite and that last season’s undefeated run was no fluke. The Irish are also fighting (no pun intended) to get into a BCS bowl in January. The Trojans (also 4-2) are a completely different story. They are in a “nothing to lose” mode after everything that program has been through the last couple of years. NCAA sanctions, recruiting difficulties, and subpar play on the field have all contributed to the Men of Troy‘s fall from grace.
A team once virtually guaranteed a conference championship every year now struggles to keep pace in an evolving PAC-12 Conference. A program that once went to five Rose Bowl’s in a six year span (2003, 2005-2008) can’t even find it’s way into a January bowl game anymore. And an institution that at one point was an annual national championship favorite, find itself losing ground against it’s inner-city rival (UCLA).
All of these negative achievements culminated with the firing of former head coach Lane Kiffin a few weeks ago. Now, USC finds themselves trying to prove that they are still legit. They are angry, frustrated, and desperate. A win over the Irish would help them get taken seriously again. A win for Notre Dame would help their case in getting into a major bowl game.
Now these may no longer be the days of Lou Holtz vs John Robinson, but the coaching match up is still intriguing. Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly has had a winning season every year that he has ran the sidelines at South Bend. The Golden Domers may not be the dominating force they once were, but Brian Kelly’s winning attitude has moved the program in the right direction.
Ed Orgeron is currently the “interim” head coach at USC and most likely won’t get the full-time promotion. With just an 11-25 career record as a head coach, and considering he was part of Kiffin’s staff, USC athletic director (and former Trojans quarterback) Pat Haden will most likely make a change at seasons end. With that fact hanging around the back of his mind, coaching USC to an upset this weekend could help him land at least a defensive coordinators position somewhere else in 2014.
Notre Dame may not have Tony Rice under center on Saturday night, but Tommy Rees is looking to cement his own legacy in South Bend. After being renamed the starter after the untimely dismissal of Everett Golson, Rees has thrown for 1,494 yards, 13 touchdowns and a completion percentage of 51.7. He also averages 7.35 yards per attempt. The senior from north suburban Lake Forest has thrown for 5,907 yards in his career in an Irish uniform, and he hopes to be one of the great’s when it’s all said and done.
As for Southern Calfornia, they may not be handing the ball off to Marcus Allen, but they still have a full stable of talented running backs at their disposal. Tre Madden, Justin Davis, Javorius Allen, Silas Redd and Ty Isaac have combined for 1,185 yards and as a team USC is averaging around 200 rushing yards per game. Both teams’ defenses rank 57th (Notre Dame) and 41st (USC) respectively. And they will both have quite the challenge ahead of them.
Notre Dame leads the all-time series 44-35-5, but USC has not lost in Northeast Indiana since 2001. But on the other side, the Irish have won two of the last three meetings. This may not be your father’s version of Notre Dame vs USC, but there are still enough storylines that keep this rivalry interesting. Get your popcorn ready for Saturday night.
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