Hey there. Why does it always seem that life/work get to be the busiest at the worst times for blogging purposes? With some free time this week I wanted to make sure to get back on track with this being USC week. With that said, here is my response to this week’s Irish Blog Gathering.
1. I’m taking an old friend of mine to the USC game. They were born and raised in South Bend near Notre Dame, and developed a dislike for the University at a young age from dealing with the frustrations and messes that come from Notre Dame home football weekends. She’s never been to a Notre Dame game before (she’s an Ohio State fan). We’re going to go tailgate and do all the usual tailgating stuff. Any suggestions on what I could do to help her let go of her animosity towards Notre Dame?
Walk around campus on Thursday or Friday and hit up all of the sites before a lot of people arrive on campus. Go to the Grotto and light a candle. Listen to the trumpets in the Dome on Friday. Rub Rock’s nose.
Go to the Midnight Drummer’s Circle on Friday night. Ever since I stopped attending pep rallies, I’ve gone to the drummer’s circle instead and I still love it.
On gameday, make sure to tailgate early so you have time to hit up the player’s walk to the stadium and the band’s concert. Lastly, make sure to make at least one trip to the Backer during the weekend.
2. On a related note, do you have any suggestions for improving the Notre Dame game weekend experience generally? Are there traditions lost that you’d like to see restored, or new ideas that you’d like to see implemented to improve the gameday experience?
I would start with the pep rallies. They have gotten a little better over the last couple of years, but they are still not something that I include in my trips out to South Bend anymore. The addition of the beer tents when Notre Dame introduced the Irish Green a couple years ago was a surprisingly nice addition, but the pep rally themselves still are lacking.
Other than that, I love all of the other game weekend traditions at Notre Dame from the player walk, to the midnight drummer’s circle, to the band’s concert on the stairs.
Now, if you are talking about the game day environment inside the stadium, there is a lot that needs to be done to make Notre Dame more of a home field advantage and a more intimidating place to play, but that’s another question all together.
3. (a) USC is (and always will be) our biggest rival. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? And if you agree, why do you feel that this is such an important rivalry? (b) Rank your top 10 college football rivalries and provide justifications for each.
Yes, USC is Notre Dame’s biggest rival and to me it isn’t even close. The Notre Dame-Michigan series has taken huge breaks, but the idea of a break between Notre Dame and USC has never been an option. USC and Notre Dame on Thanksgiving weekend every other year is something I’d never want to see change as it has become part of my family’s Thanksgiving weekend tradition.
The uniqueness of the Notre Dame-USC rivalry is what makes it so special. How many other major rivals are separated by 2,000 miles? Most major rivalries, as my list below shows are regional. There have been some good national rivalries over the years, but none have been able to withstand the test of time like Notre Dame and USC.
- Michigan/Ohio State – I don’t particularly like either of these schools, but they have a great rivalry and they genuinely hate each other – that is the sign of a great rivalry. Much like Notre Dame/USC over the last few years this rivalry has become very one sided, but it’s still one of the best in the country.
- Auburn/Alabama – Another rivalry that is just steep with hate on both sides. Oh yeah, and it doesn’t hurt that the two schools are routinely among the best in the country – especially lately. Another sign of a great rivalry is a great name and the “Iron Bowl” certainly fits the bill.
- Florida/Georgia – The “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” just sounds like a fun time. If there were one game on this list I’d like to attend based on the name of the game alone, it would be this one.
- Miami/Florida State – In the 90’s this game was routinely a national championship elimination game. It also gave us the term “wide right”. Both programs have fallen off a bit over the last few years, but the rivalry remains strong.
- Notre Dame/Navy – I don’t care if people outside of Notre Dame and Navy take this rivalry serious, but for those who know the history and uniqueness of the rivalry understand what makes it special.
- Texas/Oklahoma – Any rivalry that gets played in a neutral site every year deserves to be considered one of the best in the country. Both programs are historic rivals and many years this game has served as a national title elimination game. It also has a great name with the “Red River Shootout” (yes I know PC folks have renamed it the Red River Rivalry)
- Oklahoma/Oklahoma State – This game is call “Bedlam”. Enough said.
- Pitt/West Virginia – The Backyard Brawl is a great name and even though these two schools are usually not in the national title picture, the two sides have some genuine hate towards each other.
- Cal/Stanford – Great history with the whole “the band is on the field” game.
- Army/Navy – If I were ranking these in order, this would be my #1 rivalry and no explanation is really needed here.
Note – a couple great rivalries like Oklahoma and Nebraska and Texas and Texas A&M have been or will be discontinued or at least interrupted because of realignment so I left them off this list.
4. Southern Cal is 5-1, with their only loss on the road at Arizona State. They are unranked, sitting right behind us in the “also receiving votes” category. How good is Southern Cal this year? How do you see this game playing out?
USC is a pretty solid team, but not nearly close to the teams we have seen from USC in years past. They have some major problems along the offensive line and just don’t have the same playmakers on defense that we have become accustomed to seeing during the Pete Carroll era.
I think the game will be close early but eventually Notre Dame’s running game will be the difference just as it was a year ago. If Notre Dame can limit it’s mistakes and avoid a turnover parade like we saw last Thanksgiving weekend and early this season, I think the Irish will be able to pull away in the second half and hold on for a victory to give Notre Dame two in a row over its biggest rival.
5. It appears that with a win over USC, we’ll re-enter the Top 25 rankings. Now that we’re halfway through the season and have some actual evidence available to us from real games, how do you see the rest of the season playing out?
- (a) Notre Dame’s final record (indicating where we will lose if at all): 9-3 with a loss to Stanford.
- (b) Notre Dame’s bowl destination, opponent and outcome. Champs Bowl against Florida State.
- (c) The BCS Championship game and result. LSU and Wisconsin with LSU winning 24-17.
- (d) Notre Dame’s final AP ranking. 13th
- (e) The winners of the major awards, including:
- (i) Heisman Trophy – Russel Wilson
- (ii) Home Depot Coach of the Year -Bret Bielema
- (iii) Davey O’Brien Award (best QB) – Russel Wilson
- (iv) Doak Walker Award (best RB) – Bernard Pierce
- (v) Fred Biletnikoff Award (best WR) – Ryan Broyles
- (vi) Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player)