Mark Sanchez will make his second start today against the Fighting Irish. Pete Carroll made the choice yesterday. John David Booty will be available as needed but with the first game jitters out of the way it will be interesting to see how Sanchez performs in a hostile environment. I obviously want to see a more consistent outing b Sanchez and a struggling ND team is the perfect opportunity to get some experience under fire.
This year's game doesn't have the same luster that other years have brought us. It's not hard to see why with Notre Dame's atrocious 1-6 record and USC's lackluster play the past few weeks that has not only knocked them from the top spot in the polls but also virtually forgotten them in the BCS chase. The way this season has gone USC isn't even the best 1-loss team out there. We have spent enough of the past two weeks discussing the whole situation so there is no reason to rehash it here. But make no mistake USC's shaky play of late has had the effect of the bloom being off the rose.
For some this game is almost an after thought.
Last time USC ventured into Notre Dame Stadium, the Trojans and Irish played a game of the ages. Went back and forth, one-upped each other with bold, clutch plays. A night that overflowed with drama.
"You knew you had been part of something special," said Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis. "It just wasn't another regular-season game. This was two teams going right to the end and them making a gutsy call at the end that ended up paying off."
That Notre Dame team went 9-2 in the 2005 regular season. USC was unbeaten and the two-time defending national champion.
That game hinted that something special could happen.
Today's game hints at a strange national disinterest.
Lack luster performances will do that especially during this time of rabid college football exposure. It may not be a game of National Implications but it is still a great rivalry. CFR noted something I saw this morning in his weekly game thread about all the great games on today, there are great all-time rivalry games on today that over the years have produced some great experiences.
USC - Notre Dame is one such game.
Over the years the USC Notre Dame game has seen some real great games. Even when Notre Dame was beating SC 11 in a row there were still some great games. ND fans have always been passionate and knowledgeable and I heard plenty of stories of the hospitality and good naturedness of ND fans, especially in South Bend, even when they were drilling us for 11 straight wins. As much as I can't stand Lou "Granny" Holtz you can't deny that he was very successful and he made Notre Dame a national power during his tenure, this after the debacle that was Gerry Faust. You can find heavy pockets of ND fans where ever you go and they are not fair weather fans and they are not nasty. They readily engage in some good conversation and they will support their team through thick and thin.
For USC, today's game has a lot of different ramifications depending on their performance.
It is easy to point to 2005 as one of the great games of this rivalry because it is still fresh in our minds and both teams were in the national conversation, but before college football went on this current run of popularity there were some other great games within this rivalry:
In no particular order (from Wikipedia):
Notre Dame was ranked #1 with a 18-game winning streak. The game was marred by a brawl in the tunnel before the start of the contest. Once it began, it was a thriller. USC quarterback Todd Marinovich completed 33 of 55 passes and staked the Trojans to a 17-7 halftime lead. The Irish fought back in the second half with Tony Rice scoring the winning TD on a keeper, then Notre Dame's defense held off one last Trojan thrust.
1996 - USC 27, Notre Dame 20
After 11 straight years of losses and 13 straight years without beating Notre Dame, the Trojans finally defeated the Irish. USC was struggling at 5-6 after a wild double-overtime loss to UCLA the previous week while Notre Dame was standing tall with an 8-2 record and a New Year's Day bowl bid in the works. The Trojans managed to stay in the game despite playing without starting quarterback Brad Otton for large portions of the game due to injury. When Notre Dame scored a touchdown to go ahead 20-12 (with the PAT pending) in the fourth quarter, things looked bleak for USC. But Irish kicker Jim Sanson missed the extra point and the margin stayed at eight. The Trojans responded with an eight-play, 67-yard drive culminating in Delon Washington's 15-yard touchdown run. Washington also ran in the two-point conversion and the score was tied at 20. Neither team could score before the end of regulation and overtime ensued. On USC's first drive, Otton passed to Rodney Sermons for a five-yard touchdown pass and the Trojans went ahead for the first time, 27-20. Jubilation erupted in the Coliseum when Mark Cusano batted down Ron Powlus' fourth-down pass for a Trojan victory. It was Lou Holtz's last game as coach of the Irish and his first loss to the Trojans. Holtz compiled a 9-1-1 overall docket against USC.
1972 - USC 45, Notre Dame 23
USC was 10-0 and ranked #1 while the Irish were 8-1 and Orange Bowl-bound. Trojan tailback Anthony Davis did the most damage, scoring six touchdowns including two kickoff returns that went the distance. (Ed. Note- this one of the greatest SC teams of all time)
1978 - USC 27, Notre Dame 25
Notre Dame came into this game with an 8-2 record, having won eight straight after dropping their first two games. For three quarters, USC moved the ball at will and was overwhelming the Irish. Trailing 24-6, Irish quarterback Joe Montana found his touch in the fourth quarter and led a spectacular comeback which saw Notre Dame take a 25-24 lead with 45 seconds remaining. Aided by a questionable call, the Trojans moved into field goal range and with four seconds left, Frank Jordan drilled the game winner. Montana would work his magic one last time in the Cotton Bowl.
2002 - USC 44, Notre Dame 13
This game reestablished USC on a national level after a decade-long absence from the elite ranks. The Trojans had not played in such a highstakes game since the 1988 No. 1 vs. No. 2 loss to the Irish. The victory for the Trojans helped them clinch their first-ever BCS bowl berth and established Trojan quarterback Carson Palmer as a Heisman Trophy candidate, which he eventually won. The game culminated USC's most successful season since 1979. A capacity crowd and a national television audience saw USC quarterback Carson Palmer throw for 425 yards and four touchdowns--both Notre Dame opponent records. Palmer led the Trojan offense to 610 total yards, the most yards ever against the Irish. Notre Dame briefly took a 13-10 lead, but Palmer led the Trojans on a 75-yard drive in just over a minute culminating in a pass that sailed over the outstretched hands of two Irish defenders and into the waiting arms of Mike Williams for a 19-yard touchdown. The Trojans sprinted into the locker room with a 17-13 halftime lead and never looked back. USC 44 points were the most against the Irish by a USC team since Troy's 55-24 victory in 1974.
And my favorite...
1974 - USC 55, Notre Dame 24
In one of the most notable comebacks in college football history, the 1974 Trojans erased a 24-point deficit to beat defending national champion Notre Dame, 55-24, in the Coliseum. In 1998, SPORT magazine listed the game as the No. 6 top college football greatest moment of the 20th century. The Trojans trailed the Irish and the nation's top-ranked defense, 24-0. With 10 seconds remaining before halftime, Anthony Davis scored on a 7-yard pass from Pat Haden. Davis then took the opening kickoff of the second half and raced 102 yards for a score, opening the floodgates as USC rallied for 35 points in the third quarter. Davis scored 2 more touchdowns that quarter, and Haden threw two TD passes to Johnny McKay (USC Coach John McKay's son). Before 2 minutes had elapsed in the fourth quarter, Haden hit Shelton Diggs for a TD pass and Charles Phillips returned an interception 58 yards for a touchdown. In all, USC scored 55 points in under 17 minutes. The victory propelled USC to the national championship after it defeated Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. After the game, the Rev. Theodore Martin Hesburgh, then-president of the university, said to Trojan coach John McKay, "That wasn't very nice." McKay, an Irish Catholic known for his quick wit, replied, "That's what you get for hiring a Presbyterian!" A few weeks later, Ara Parseghian announced his resignation.
You get the picture...
This will always be a great rivalry because it stood the test of time and it is voluntary. Today's game may not be a blockbuster on the levels of those I have listed above but anytime we play ND it is special regardless of how teams are matched or how the game ends. Both teams get up for this game regardless of where they stand in the polls and that is why you can never take ND for granted.
Here is to a great game!!