October 17th, 2009, South Bend Indiana, one of the storied rivalries in college football will play out once again.
The University of Southern California Trojans will take on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
These two teams have gone to battle eighty times. There is something to be said about playing an opponent as many times as they have. You either develop a mutual respect for each other, or dislike that runs so deep, it becomes part of your family heritage. Regardless, it plays on both emotions from year to year, and game to game.
While players, coaches, and even venues have changed, the colors, emotion, and flat out dislike for each other has not lost an ounce of passion. That could not ring more true than this year, as it appears the Irish are in the best position they have been in for sometime to contend with the Trojans.
The history between the two teams goes back to another time and era. Its said that the first meeting of these two teams was brought together by "a conversation between wives". Legendary Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne and USC athletic director Gywnn Wilson, their significant others.
It goes that USC was looking for a national team to develop a rivalry with and traveled to Lincoln Nebraska, while the Irish were facing off with the Cornhuskers. Through meetings with the Irish and Trojans,and much discussion, Knute was hesitant to make the journey to sunny southern cal due to the great distance. Mrs. Wilson convinced Mrs. Rockne that a trip to the palm trees, beach, and sunshine once a year would be much more enjoyable than the great plains in December.
Like every good husband, Knute listened to his wife, and the rivalry was born.
While that may not be the historical fact on how this game was born, it adds to the allure of how a simple conversation that may or may not of happened, brought to us one of the greatest college football games every year.
These two colleges combined have produced 22 National Titles, 14 Heisman Trophy winners, and 21 All Americans, NFL Hall of Famers, and College Football Hall of Famers. There is not another rivalry in college football that has a higher total of the listed accolades.
Here is another fact I did not know, these two teams play for the Jeweled Shillelagh (shuh-LAY-lee). The Trophy is a Gaelic War Club, and was introduced to the game in 1952 by the Notre Dame Alumni Club. For each Irish win, an emerald studded shamrock is placed on the club. When there is a Trojan victory, a ruby Trojan head is placed.. The year and score is on each medallion. In a tie event, it is a split medallion.
The series has been dominated by the Trojans as of late, reeling off seven consecutive wins, since 2003. Notre Dame leads the all time series, 42-33-5. The Longest winning streak belongs to the Irish, winning eleven consecutive from 1983-1993.
Love him or hate him, there is no question that the Trojans under Pete Carroll have become one of the most powerful collegiate football teams in the country from year to year. He has taken this program and invoked the spirits of the past, and brought back the Trojan dominance.
The Trojans have had the injury bug this year, most notable the horrific weight lifting injury to one of the unquestioned leaders on the team, Stafon Johnson. Stafon is expected to make a full recovery. Also Ronald Johnson, the deep threat wide-out that USC was hoping to stretch the field with, has been out since the beginning of the season as well. He is expected to return for the game in South Bend.
The Men of Troy have also been in a rebuilding year, losing almost the entire starting defense to the 2009 NFL draft, and of course, starting QB Mark Sanchez who decided to leave a year early, and possibly leave a National Title on the table.
With every loss, Pete Carroll has an answer and a capable back up. Enter the freshman phenom, Matt Barkley. Matt is the first True Frosh to be at the coveted starting QB for Southern Cal. Barkley is being toted as the chosen one who is going to lead this team to the promise land once again, and from what we have seen so far, he very well could be.
The Trojans are starting to fire on all cylinders, and with the "one loss" out of the way, there is not many teams that are going to be able to contend. Historically, after the one loss, the Trojans will finish the season with pure dominance. Next in line?
The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
While there has been a resurgence in the Irish as of late. Jimmy Clausen is finally living up to the hype for being the No. 1 prospect out of high school, and also doing his best to throw his name in the Heisman mix. But, once again the drama surrounding Charlie Weiss and his job performance, may be overshadowing the fact that Notre Dame is actually winning.
Weiss is in his fifth season with the Irish, and without a win against the Trojans and a BCS birth, we will once again be discussing if Charlie will be at the Helm next season.
The Irish are 4-1, and have squeaked out wins against three sub-five hundred (UW being one of them, who beat USC) teams, the one loss came at the hands of the Michigan Wolverines in the last seconds of the game. There are still many questions unanswered about how good the Irish really are at this point, or if they have just been lucky. We are about to find out.
While I believe that the Irish may contend, and finish the season with eight or nine wins, they are going to come up short this time against the Trojans.
Sorry Irish fans, your luck has run out.