College football’s greatest rivalry continues this week as the Trojans travel to South Bend to once again take on the Fighting Irish. The Trojans go into this game 5-1, and the Irish 4-2, but for the first time, like, EVER, ‘SC will be unranked even though they are only a one-loss team, when they face the Irish. Not only that, but Vegas also has USC as 9-point ‘dogs to the Irish, for the first time in 10 years. As Rodney Dangerfield would say, they’re getting no respect.
So obviously, it’s still fun to be on the “We hate USC!” bandwagon, but if all goes to plan, those wagon wheels are going to get blown the heck off.
I almost don’t even want to talk about last year’s game against Notre Dame—it was probably the most miserable loss in my college career at ‘SC (this of course has nothing to do with the fact that it was 48 degrees and raining cats and dogs). Matt Barkley was out due to injury and Mitch Mustain got the start, which was exactly as disastrous as it could’ve been. The Trojans were stagnant on all accounts, and couldn’t get any push against the Irish D-line, which was pretty weak at the time. Notre Dame took the lead late in the 4th quarter, but Mustain decided to get it together and surged back down the field. In the final seconds, with the game on the line, Mustain heaved the game winning pass to wide receiver Ronald Johnson, who was WIDE OPEN…and Johnson dropped it. And at that minute, all my hopes and dreams came crashing down as the ball sloshed into the wet grass. So I, and my friends, walked solemnly out of the Coliseum soaking wet, with our heads hung, wondering how the heck we just lost to Notre Dame after the decade of dominance.
I’m still not over it.
However, I am willing to look past it because my Trojans have a chance to redeem themselves, and I will be there to see it in person! It’s my senior year, so naturally I just HAVE to take the trip to South Bend to experience the rivalry in hostile territory. After last year, the Irish think they can beat us, they think they’ve started a new chapter in the rivalry in which the Irish put a stranglehold on the prized Jeweled Shilelagh.
They are highly mistaken.
Matt Barkley is healthy this time around and ready to put in work against the Irish. Hopefully, fans will get to the see the Barkley that is poised, efficient, and dominant over the one who is shaky on the road. It is critical to USC’s success that he emerges as the leader early on. The Trojans—as we have seen for weeks now—are working with an offense comprised of young, but extremely talented threats and if used well, this game can easily go in the Trojans favor. Marquis Lee will play this week after slightly injuring his shoulder against Cal, which will be super clutch for USC as the Irish will undoubtedly try to blanket Robert Woods the entire time. As far as the running game goes, it is expected that Curtis McNeal will get his first career start. Marc Tyler dislocated his shoulder last week, and though he has recovered, it’s likely that he will be a game time decision.
SC’s biggest defensive threat will come from middle linebacker Manti Te’o, who was at one point in history a USC commit. Te’o absolutely commands attention at his position, averaging about 10 tackles per game and 8.5 tackles for losses. These figures are better than anyone the Trojans have faced thus far. This means that Te’o is going to be putting in work to bring the Trojan players to the ground, which may not be too difficult if the Trojan offensive line does not establish a presence early on. The unquestioned leader of the defense and a man that hits with the force of a cruise missile on every single play, it will be important for the safety of our skill players to keep their eyes on #5.
On the other side of the ball, the Fighting Irish feature one of the best wide receivers in the country in Michael Floyd. Floyd is a vertical threat the likes of which the Trojans haven’t seen thus far, and has been giving Monte Kiffin nightmares since he made the decision to return to school instead of forgoing his senior year for the NFL. He’s averaging 12.4 yards per reception, for a total of 639 yards and four touchdowns. I don’t even need to elaborate on the damage Floyd will cause if left to his own devices, and if not completely locked down by the Trojan secondary. This game will probably be the truest test so far if the Trojans defense can really hack it or not with better programs.
The atmosphere in South bend is going to be absolutely electric, and you can count on that to be a big factor in this game for both teams. This game really could go either way, ending in a dramatic shootout, or a repeat nail-biter, like last season. When it comes down to it though, I have 100% faith in the Trojans to hold it down, ride the train to clutch city, and return with a victory for USC. Final score will be 35-31 USC, and when the final whistle blows, I and the thousands of other Trojans around me will go bananas when the Trojans beat the Fighting Irish. We just might even rush the field at the end, who knows?
But what I DO know is, it’s about to be a great rivalry for the history books.