(UHND.com) — The stage is set. The first time the ESPN GameDay crew went on the road was back in 1993 for the Game of the Century — #1 Florida State at #2 Notre Dame. Twelve years the later, the GameDay crew will again be in South Bend for another monumental game in Notre Dame Stadium with the #1 USC Trojans in town. The stars are aligning, the script is being written, and we will soon find out how the story ends, at least the 2005 chapter.
It’s been a long and sometimes miserable journey from that first ESPN GameDay visit to Notre Dame. A week after the last Game of the Century that was played in the house that Rockne built Boston College kicked the Irish into over a decade of mediocrity and I for one am ready for another Notre Dame moment.
Who knew that when Shawn Wooden knocked down Charlie Ward’s pass at the end of regulation that it would be the last time Notre Dame would beat a #1 team? Or that a week later would be the last time Notre Dame was the #1 team in the country? Or that a few months later the Irish would win their last bowl game?
The makings are all their for another chapter to be added to the storied history of Notre Dame football this weekend. The Irish face #1 USC, a team that has beaten them three straight years by a combined 93 points, with a chance to open the eyes of the remaining skeptics out there. The Irish also get to face USC with two weeks to prepare and will face the Trojans for the first time with Charlie Weis at the helm.
Six weeks ago every pundant in the county said the Irish had no chance against the mighty Trojans, but a lot has changed since then. Notre Dame is 4-1 with the most explosive offense they have had since the days of Lou Holtz. They have a new head coach who has grabbed the attention of every sports writer in the country with his masterful play calling and his promise to a little boy to pass right.
In looking at the predictions of the “experts” out there, many are now saying the Irish have a shot which is a far cry from the 1-5 record that geniuses like Mark May and Lee Corso predicted prior to ND’s trashing of Pitt.
On paper, USC is the superior team, but there are some chinks in the armor of the Men of Troy this year. USC has been plagued by slow starts the past few weeks and has a defense that has had its weakness exposed in the secondary. The Trojans may also have a slightly injured superstar in Reggie Bush who suffered an ankle injury a week ago. Bush will play, but how strong is that ankle really?
Games like this sometimes aren’t decided based on who the better team is on paper. In 1993 the Irish has no chance against the superior Seminoles or the Hurricanes in 1988. Hell, even in 2000 the #1 Nebraska Cornhuskers were set to rollover the Irish before Notre Dame forced overtime before eventually losing.
It’s been a long time since there’s been a true Notre Dame moment in Rockne’s House. There have been some big wins for the Irish over opponents like Michigan and Texas since that ’93 classic, but it’s been too long since the Irish had one of those magical moments where they shock the world.
The Irish have had plenty of chances since then, but haven’t capitalized. This year they have a coach that is up to the challenge who’s had 2 weeks to prepare. The motivation fo three straight 31 point losses also looms large for an Irish team looking to jump from feel good story to title contender this weekend.