Should USC football push to play Notre Dame with non-conference game approved?

USC football vs. Notre Dame. (Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports)
USC football vs. Notre Dame. (Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports) /

USC football could revive a rivalry as Pac-12 allows non-conference games

On Thursday, the Pac-12 announced an agreement to allow non-conference matchups in 2020.

The obvious response was to wonder: Does this mean USC football can play Notre Dame to ensure the rivalry continues uninterrupted?

First of all, it’s not that simple.

Second of all, it’s not advantageous for either team, so don’t bet on it.

USC football playing Notre Dame is great for tradition, not the record.

The Pac-12’s deal comes with some caveats that make any non-conference matchups feel unlikely.

  • All Pac-12 testing and related protocols must be adhered to by the non-conference opponent;
  • The non-conference game will in all cases be a home game for the Pac-12 team, broadcast by a Pac-12 television partner; and
  • If a Pac-12 opponent becomes available by the end of day Thursday in any given week, the Conference game must be played in lieu of any non-conference game.

The first bullet would be more of a problem for Mountain West teams, but Notre Dame playing in the ACC means their testing protocols are similar enough to the Pac-12.

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The next two bullets just complicate an already complicated situation.

USC did travel to Notre Dame last year, so it would be fair to expect the Irish to come to Los Angeles. Why would they risk it though?

A cross-country road trip in the middle of a pandemic is questionable enough to ponder let alone one that would have to come on very short notice, wouldn’t feature fans in the stands or recruiting opportunities and could put Notre Dame at risk of suffering a loss.

Having beaten Clemson, the Irish are already in the driver’s seat with a path to the College Football Playoff. USC would give them either a loss they can’t afford or a quality win they don’t need.

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From USC’s perspective, the deal wouldn’t be that great either. Notre Dame is the No. 2 team in the country and would be favored even on the road. Even if the thought of an upset win is fun to dream about, the more likely outcome would be a devastating loss. (Excelerationists who want to see Clay Helton fired wouldn’t be too torn up about that though).

It’s nice to ponder salvaging the rivalry matchup this year. In all likelihood, it’s just not going to happen

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