The Notre Dame – USC Rivalry usually doesn’t need anything extra to get the juices following between the two squads. This year, USC captain Michael Pittman decided to add a little fuel to the fire providing Notre Dame with bulletin board material in advance of the Trojans trip to Indiana.
In case you missed it, temperatures are expected to be in the mid-40’s on Saturday night for kick-off. Those temperatures are unseasonably cold for this time of year. For Notre Dame fans who have been long annoyed that USC never has to play in the South Bend cold, those temps are also unreasonably delightful.
When asked about playing in the cold temperatures in Notre Dame Stadium this weekend, Pittman told reporters on Tuesday that he’s he told his teammates to embrace the “suck” and then added a little gem about running up the score on the Irish.
Michael Pittman Jr. was asked what advice he gave to younger players vs. Notre Dame: "I told them to embrace the suck,” he said. "It’s going to be cold. But it’ll be fun when we’re running up the score."
— Ryan Kartje (@Ryan_Kartje) October 9, 2019
Reminder: USC limps into this year’s contest with two losses in their last three games – both of which have come on the road. They lost to unranked BYU 27-30 and then lost to now unranked Washington 14-28 two weeks ago before having a bye last weekend. USC was also 2-4 on the road in 2018, meaning they’ve lost six of their last eight on the road.
Another reminder: the last time USC traveled to Notre Dame, the Irish blew out the then #11 ranked Trojans 49-14.
Add that all up and it’s some pretty tough talk for a team that’s lost six of eight on the road and six of their last nine overall against Notre Dame. To his credit, though, he did have a solid performance against Notre Dame last year in LA with seven receptions for 91 yards.
Notre Dame’s players did not need any extra motivation this weekend. They know that there is no margin for error after the loss to Georgia if they any desires to make the playoffs again this year. They also don’t need any extra motivation to get up for their biggest rival.
Some Notre Dame fans have been up in arms on Twitter today over Pittman’s comments, but there is no need to be. All Pittman did was place the spotlight on himself should USC suffer a similar fate to the one they suffered two years ago against the Irish.
All that said, I’m sure that Brian Kelly and his staff were not in the slightest upset to hear Pittman’s brash talk this week. He might play it down when he talks to the media tomorrow, but you know that Kelly made sure that all of his players were well aware of the trash talk coming from one of USC’s captains none the less.
What makes Pittman’s bulletin board all the more interesting is when it’s contrasted with how Notre Dame’s captains are talking about this weekend’s game. Here’s a tweet quoting Chris Finke:
Notre Dame receiver Chris Finke asked about the USC rivalry and the Trojans playing up on Saturday night.
"With a rivalry game, records are thrown out the window."
— Pete Sampson (@PeteSampson_) October 9, 2019
That is also coming from a captain on a team that is currently ranked 9th in the country that is still in the playoff hunt – not one that very likely will be fighting to save their coach’s job down the stretch this season.
In the end, none of this matters or will have any bearing on who wins and loses this weekend. After the first few minutes, this will all go out the window, and all that will matter is which team walks the better walk, not who talks the better talk. That should be Notre Dame based on all the evidence we’ve seen over the last two and a half seasons.