Athlon Sports disrespects USC-Notre Dame rivalry with cringeworthy ranking

Oct 23, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Keaontay Ingram, USC Football
Oct 23, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Keaontay Ingram, USC Football / Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

USC football's rivalry with Notre Dame is one of the best in college sports. There's no doubt about that. How many times have USC and Notre Dame lined up elite squads against each other, and had a game for the ages that the entire world of college football was watching?

And even when one or both teams aren't elite, how many times have we still been given a true classis of a rivalry matchup? We all know the saying, both sides use it: "When Notre Dame and USC play each other, throw the records out the window."

It's arguably the best in college football history. It's why I was shocked when reading an article from Kyle Kensing of Athlon Sports titled 'Pac-12 Football: 10 Most Intriguing Non-Conference Games of 2022,' and seeing him put the 2022 edition of the USC-Notre Dame rivalry as the No. 5 game on his list.

Disrespecting what might be the greatest rivalry in college football history in USC-Notre Dame is criminal.

The most confusing part of this disappointing ranking of USC-Notre Dame is that the description was actually pretty solid. Here's what Kensing wrote in his description:

"One of the sport's definitive rivalries returns to Los Angeles for the first time since 2018 when Notre Dame closes the season at USC. COVID put the kibosh on a Fighting Irish trip to the Coliseum in 2020, and Notre Dame extended its winning streak in the series to four games with consecutive home victories bookending a playoff-clinching contest at USC in 2018. With both programs welcoming first-year head coaches in 2022, this installment of the series promises to be especially intriguing."

Ken Kensing, Athlon Sports

So...Kensing hit the nail on the head, correct? He made it clear that this rivalry is "one of the sport's definitive rivalries." Can the same be said about any of the four ranked ahead of this? Absolutely not. Arizona State at Oklahoma State is not one of the sport's definitive rivalries. Neither is Oregon vs. BYU. Utah at Florida isn't either. Last I checked--Oregon vs. Georgia also isn't even close as well.

He also included that both programs are bringing in new head coaches for 2022, which brings quite a bit of intrigue. Both coaches are bringing a lot of excitement to their respective programs, and creating a lot of national excitement as well. Heck, the national media can't stop talking about Lincoln Riley. So, where is that level of intrigue from the four matchups listed ahead of this one?

A train wreck of an ASU program playing Oklahoma State? A non-Power 5 team playing an Oregon team who looks like they may see regression this year? A big dog in Georgia looking to spank the Ducks in what's really a Georgia home game? Utah at Florida could certainly get interesting, but USC-Notre Dame should be no lower than third on the list behind that and Oregon vs. Georgia (because it includes the reigning National Champion). There's no excuse for the other two games listed ahead of them.

Is it because USC hasn't held up their end of the bargain in the rivalry these past few years? Potentially, as SC has lost each of their last four tries against Notre Dame. Try catching this program with an elite guy in Riley at the helm, though. We all know how the rivalry used to go the last time SC had an elite coach running the show. SC won eight straight times.

Don't count on USC performing lousy against Notre Dame in the Riley era. Sure, I wouldn't count on a rebuilding USC team to beat a team that is likely going to enter the season ranked higher than them in Year 1. That being said, due to USC's history against Notre Dame when they have the right coach in place, I certainly wouldn't count them out. I certainly wouldn't say that Arizona State-Oklahoma State and Oregon vs. BYU are more intriguing than one of the most bloody rivalries in college football history.

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No personal shots at Kensing are intended here at all. It was just simply disappointing to see a publication downplay just how special this rivalry is to this great game and to the Conference of Champions.