Besides the Michigan State vs. Wisconsin game, there’s probably no other matchup today that I’m looking forward to as much as USC vs. Notre Dame.
Since the rivalry between these two was so lopsided over the last decade, with the Trojans winning eight straight games between 2002 and 2009, this once-great rivalry has seemingly lost a lot of its luster in recent years.
Every season during that long, painful stretch, the Irish were constantly reminded of just how far they had fallen down the college football food chain, as they were forced to watch USC’s reign as one of college football’s true super powers.
Now, after losing Pete Carroll and being on the wrong end of a harsh NCAA penalty, it’s the Trojans who are the ones who have come back to the college football pack recently, and Notre Dame took full advantage of that drop off last year, when the Irish toppled the Trojans for the first time since 2001.
The big win helped coach Brian Kelly gain some much-needed respect from the Notre Dame fan base, but that credibility quickly deteriorated at the start of this season when Kelly’s Irish team couldn’t make good on their preseason promise, starting off the year with two disappointing losses.
Notre Dame has since managed to right the ship and win four straight games, which sets up Saturday night’s showdown in South Bend as a pivotal game of the season.
The 5-1 Trojans will come to Notre Dame Stadium with the intentions of proving just how good they really are, while the Irish will be looking to set up a successful second-half stretch run with a big statement win.
The game is shaping up to be one of the most even and entertaining battles that we’ve seen these two teams wage in quite a while, and it could be just a preview of what’s to come in the years ahead.
Both USC and Notre Dame are in great shape for the future with two bright, young hard-working head coaches in Lane Kiffin and Brian Kelly and the foundation of both programs is strong and stable.
Both schools are recruiting at a very high level and with the type of talent they’re bringing in, both have a shot to be national title contenders throughout the decade.
The question has to be asked then: Who will win a title first, Notre Dame or USC?
The future looks bright for both programs, but if I were a betting man and had to pick between the two, I would say Notre Dame for the simple fact that the Irish are an independent, while the Trojans have to play in the Pac-12 with other developing national powers like Stanford and Oregon.
While it doesn’t look like Kelly has this Notre Dame team ready to compete for a spot in the big game next year, with the way he’s building up the program, it won’t take very much longer.
Sure, he’s had his rough stretches through the first two seasons, but Kelly is a proven winner and he’s got what it takes to elevate Notre Dame back to the top-tier of college football and turn the Irish back into one of the sports true power programs very soon.
With both teams headed in the right direction, it should be fun to see the Notre Dame vs. USC rivalry have some juice again.