IBG – Southern Cal Edition

This week’s Irish Blogger Gathering is brought to us by OC Domer – a Notre Dame blogger subjected to USC much more than most of us.  Be sure to check out his responses to these questions with the link above and see my responses below.

1. Notre Dame played perhaps its best game of the year in a win over the Utah Utes two weeks ago. Utah remains ranked at #23 in the Associated Press poll. Notre Dame likewise took Michigan State (AP #11) to overtime before losing on a fake field goal. Therefore the Irish should have no trouble with this unranked Trojan squad. Agree or disagree? Show your work.

Manti Te'o seems like an obvious choice for team MVP this season, but Harrison Smith has quietly had an excellent season. (Photo - Icon SMI)

The transitive property of wins and losses never holds true in college football – especially in the case of a rivalry game like Notre Dame-USC.  That doesn’t taken into account USC’s recent dominance of the series either and despite their lack of a top 25 ranking this year, the Trojans are still a very solid football team with playmakers on both sides of the ball.

USC’s record might not be what most Trojan fans became accustomed to under Pete Carroll, but USC has played some very good football teams tough.  They took Stanford down to the wire and hung with Oregon for about three quarters until their lack of depth caught up to them and the Ducks ran away with it.

At the same time, USC was hanging by a thread for a couple of weeks before getting blown out by Oregon State last weekend.  Three weeks ago they squeaked by Arizona State and two weeks ago hung on to a three point win over Arizona.

The X-factor here is what USC team shows up?  The one that played Stanford and Oregon tough or the one that got blown out by Oregon State and doesn’t have a chance to play in a bowl game because of USC’s probation?  The lack of a bowl game can work for or against the Irish here.  On one hand, they could treat the Notre Dame game as their bowl game while on the other they could be lacking motivation after last week.

Bottom line – this year’s game is about as unpredictable as any Notre Dame – USC game in recent memory.

2. It is almost time for the OC Domer Player of the Year to be named. This award is intended to recognize the Notre Dame football player or players who played the best when it mattered the most. Suffice it to say that the primary criterion is a consistently high level of play, with significant bonus points awarded for exceeding expectations. Injuries have taken many of the pre-season favorites for this prestigious award out of the running. Who is your nominee for this award, and why?

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The offense has been too inconsistent and injured this year for the award to reside on that side of the ball so I’ll turn my attention to defense where I see three candidates – Manti Te’o, Gary Gray, and Harrison Smith.  Te’o is the most obvious choice because of his tackle totals and his big hits, but Gray and Smith both deserve some serious consideration.  Gray has been as close to a shutdown corner as Notre Dame has had in years.  He doesn’t have a lot of interceptions because teams just have not been targeting him in the passing game.

Harrison Smith meanwhile might be the most improved player on the team.  Smith is tied for the team lead in interceptions with 3 and ranks second on the team in tackles behind Te’o.  He’s a completely different player than the one we’ve seen bounced around between linebacker and safety the last two years and he’s just starting to play his best football.

At the end of the day, I’d give it to Te’o, but with Gray and Smith both back for the Irish next year, the secondary should be in fine shape.

Side note – If Ian Williams had stayed healthy all season, he’d be the hands down winner here.

3. With a delicate flavor similar to beef, though slightly sweeter than other meats, horse meat can be used to replace beef, pork, mutton, and any other meat in virtually any recipe, though most aficionados prefer it in marinated or spicy dishes. Nutritionally, horse meat has around 40 percent fewer calories than the leanest beef, while supplying 50 percent more protein and as much as 30 percent more iron; and horse fat is considered an excellent health-conscious deep-frying alternative, especially for delicately-flavored foods that are easily overpowered by heavier oils. What is your favorite horse meat recipe?

Ummm…. I got nothing here.

4. Do you miss Pat Haden, who left the Notre Dame television broadcasts to become athletic director at USC?

I don’t miss Haden in the booth at all.  Mayock has been a much better color commentator because of his understanding of the game.  I could have done with him saying “Bobby Diaco” as many times as he has all season, but he’s been much easier to listen to than Haden.

Now, if only there was something we could do about getting the guy sitting next to Mayock replaced.

5. USC is the Notre Dame rival I love to hate. What Notre Dame rival do you most despise, and why?

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Until the Pete Carroll Era at USC, I never had many ill feelings towards USC since the Trojans were Notre Dame’s oldest rival.  The Carroll Era changed that, but mainly because of the beatings his squads dealt out to the Irish over the last 8 years.  With Lane Kiffin’s polarizing personality roaming the Southern Cal sidelines now, it’s probably going to be even easier to hate the Trojans.

All of that said, Michigan is still the Notre Dame rival I despise the most.  Many people tend to forget that Michigan and Fielding Yost went out of their way to try and derail the Notre Dame football program before it ever got off the ground.   Back in the early days of Notre Dame football, Michigan was also instrumental in keeping the Irish out of the Western Conference (now the Big 10).  Throw in Bo Schembechler’s “to hell with Notre Dame” and it’s a lot easier to hate Michigan than USC.

6. Reggie Bush got a car, his parents a house. Rumors of  Cam Newton’s dad seeking money for his sons services aren’t going away.  Can Notre Dame compete for athletic recruits in this environment? Or do you believe these incidents are the exceptions to an otherwise clean recruiting landscape?

Of course Notre Dame can complete for recruits in this environment.  As recently as three years ago Notre Dame had the 2nd best recruiting class in the country according to most recruiting services after one of the worst seasons in Notre Dame history.   While Charlie Weis’s recruiting classes had some glaring holes in them from year to year (usually along the defensive line and defensive backfield), he showed that Notre Dame can compete for elite prospects with all of the other major powers in college football.

Notre Dame’s biggest problem in recruiting has had less to do with the weather in South Bend, the academic standards at Notre Dame, or any improprieties at other universities and more to do with the product on the field.   Until Notre Dame starts playing consistently well on both sides of the ball, there will be struggles in recruiting in some form or another.  Even when Weis was signing top 10 classes, the holes that existed came in areas where Notre Dame struggled.  It was no coincidence that the Irish had little trouble signing quarterbacks and wide receivers with Weis in charge but struggled landing elite defensive prospects.

If Brian Kelly can right the ship and point the Irish in the right direction, recruiting will take care of itself.  Kelly and staff have shown that they can recruit with the big boys already.  If they back it up with W’s, Notre Dame will just fine in recruiting.

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Side note – one of the old staff’s biggest problems in recruiting was relying on stars and rankings and not focusing on getting great athletes.  Oregon doesn’t make a lot of waves in recruiting, but they have great athletes and coach them up. If Kelly can do that as well while backing it up with wins, the Irish will not have some of the talent ad depth issues that have been a problem in the past.

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34 comments

  1. irisheye62 9 years ago

    Irish Chan–good post—never thought of that—
    never had that in my head–wow—-
    I’m so excited I could not sleep and off to Church–
    this isn’t going to be pretty–but who NEEDS pretty?
    WE WON!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Thanks for the stat –10 bowl teams
    young team-
    fresh. qb
    adversity
    Tragedy–( and my heart still breaks for the family –more than words can say)

    ND still standing-thanks for the stat
    wonder who else has played this many bowl teams? ( and sc would be given their record–hmmm—nice kudos for the Irish as far as that goes!)

    WE ARE —ND!

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  2. IrishChan 9 years ago

    Notre Dame ended up playing 10 bowl-eligible teams this season. The only two that didn’t earn that distinction was Purdue, because of its record (4-8), and USC, because of probation

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  3. IrishChan 9 years ago

    So…. What does this mean Bowl wise?

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  4. IrishChan 9 years ago

    This team WANTS to run the ball! The last 3 victories have come because Kelly made it a point to POUND the football. We have the backs to do it. If you ask Reese to throw the ball 25+ times you can expect him to make multiple mistakes with reads throughout the game. It’s just going to happen. I don’t care that there were tip balls… blah, blah, blah.

    Roll him out… shot-gun… under-center… what ever…

    Pound the ball and ask the kid to to complete 12-15 passes a game.

    Our DEFENSE is playing some spectacular football! They have shown us that they are hungry and keep to opposing team out of the end zone. They are playing with attitude.

    Monti, Gray, Smith (Harrison), Smith (Brian) and some younger guys are playing really…really well!

    I really hope that Kelly recognizes that we can be a spread team… with a GREAT running game and have a DEFENSIVE personality too…

    Bring on the next game and recruits!

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  5. irisheye62 9 years ago

    BTW
    EVERYBODY

    NOTRE DAME BEAT USC NOTRE DAME BEAT USC
    NOTRE DAME BEAT USC NOTRE DAME BEAT USC

    WE ARE ———–ND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  6. irisheye62 9 years ago

    I LOVE TO BE WRONG
    I LOVE TO BE WRONG
    I LOVE TO BE WRONG
    I hoped but never thought that ND would beat BOTH UTAH AND USC
    in the same month especially after the last weekend in October.
    Here are some thoughts:
    Biggest Margin of Victory-25 over 14 Utah who was ranked 5th week before
    Largest Margin of Loss- 23 to a top ten Stanford team
    btw heading for school record in wins I’m not one to compliment the Cardinal but it is the truth -they are a great team.
    Closest Margin in Loss- 1 -uggh
    Closest Margin in Victory- 4
    Worst Thing about the Season–last part of October
    Best Part of Season -three wins in November turning season around
    The Losses for sure: Stanford, Navy
    The Games that “could have been” Mich, Mich. St. last week of October

    Given all that -young team, baby face QB looks younger than my own,
    new system and defense suddenly actually PLAYING
    I LOVE TO BE WRONG
    but I thought 7-5 was a tall order after Halloween
    Thanksgiving weekend sure ended nicely
    Again, I LOVE TO BE WRONG IN THINGS LIKE THIS-the wife loves it when I’m wrong too
    Love you Irish through thick and thin
    ( and the neighbors were awake courtesy of my praise to GOD for the interception late–they were annoyed–and I could care less)
    GO IRISH

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  7. ted 9 years ago

    great win!

    when was the last time you saw nd’s d-line dominate like that? we held them to 80 yards rushing on 30 attempts! this d-line is only getting better.

    corners played great, h smith was great in run support, even though he almost gave up the score at the end (thank you usc for the choke job) he redeemed himself with the game winning pic.

    b.smith played great in pass defense, at least 3 break-ups that i can recall. teo played great, except when he slipped and gave up a 30 yard pass to the fb.

    can you believe this is the same defense as last year? complete turn-around. the best part is we will have 8 returning starters, losing ian, b smith, and walls (assuming h smith and gray will be getting a fifth year).

    offense will come around. everyone played well except tommy, but you can’t expect a true freshman to be flawless. the improvement in the run game is enough evidence for me to believe we can be an all-around good team next year.

    This is what good coaching looks like guys. Weight-training, discipline, consistency, and TEAM football.

    GO IRISH!!

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