Is USC or Notre Dame the Real Winner of Extending Rivalry Series?
The University of Southern California and University of Notre Dame have announced their football series extension through the 2023 season.
USC and Notre Dame fans can both claim to be the winner. So can the schools. College football's greatest intersectional rivalry will continue.
Notre Dame has not returned to glory yet, but the Fighting Irish did make its first BCS title game appearance in the 2013 BCS Championship where it lost 42-14 to Alabama. Head coach Brian Kelly led his team to an undefeated regular season before suffering a crushing defeat to Nick Saban's Crimson Tide.
USC has taken a step backward. The Trojans are still feeling the effects of NCAA-sanctioned scholarship reductions. No-tackle practices have been difficult on the team and its fans. Last year USC's No. 71-ranked rushing defense was gutted 426 yards by Oregon, 222 yards by Notre Dame and 294 yards by Georgia Tech.
Notre Dame started the 2012 season with minimal fanfare, devoid of an AP Top 25 preseason ranking, and finished playing for the BCS title. USC started the season in a glaring spotlight, a No. 1 AP preseason ranking, and finished 7-6.
It would be fantastic if both teams peaked at the same time in the same year, but that has not happened since 1988 when No. 1 Notre Dame beat No. 2 USC to win the national title.
Notre Dame's prospects look good. Kelly has already won over the fans—a very difficult thing to do—and despite getting spanked by Alabama, he has invigorated his school's fan base.
USC is still in wait-and-see mode under head coach Lane Kiffin. He has not been dealt a full deck due to the NCAA sanctions but has recruited extremely well.
The Trojans' non-conference schedule is a little watered down without the Irish on the slate. In 2014 they play Fresno State and Boston College. In 2015 they play Arkansas State and Idaho. Having Notre Dame as an opponent lends credibility to an otherwise SEC-like non-conference schedule.
Notre Dame will play more ACC opponents due to the school joining the Atlantic Coast Conference July 1. Its football program will remain independent but play five ACC teams per season. Depending on which ACC teams it plays, Notre Dame's schedule could become more difficult if it gets Miami, Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech and less difficult with Boston College, Wake Forest and Virginia.
With conference expansion taking its toll on great rivalries, USC vs. Notre Dame has at least survived. Texas vs. Texas A&M is no longer, but USC vs. Notre Dame lives on.
Sometime in the next decade, USC vs. Notre Dame will play for all the marbles. The anticipation will have been worth the wait.
With the College Football Playoff selection committee putting greater emphasis on strength of schedule, this is a win-win for both schools.
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