Notre Dame vs USC…was good once as it ever was…and still is

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It has been 22 years since this game actually mattered.

Today, it is a battle of mediocrity.

What the hell happened to Notre Dame vs. USC?

What happened is that this rivalry has not really mattered in a generation.

It might have mattered to the fans, but not to the polls, where it really counts.

Never mind it’s one-loss record in 2002 entering the final game, Notre Dame was a joke of a squad. And the Carson-Palmer-led Trojans proved that point rather quickly.

The Irish have not defeated USC since Pete Carroll’s inaugural season in 2001. Recently, only the 2005 match-up proved to be an engaging game. Though USC did cheat to win that game (re: the “Bush Push”), no Notre Dame squad has been able to challenge the Trojans in a decade.

By Brian McCabe

With four losses, USC is experiencing a down year in the Boy Genius’ first season as head coach. However, most pundits predicted Lane Kiffin would struggle even more. USC has been able to overcome probation and the loss of scholarships while turning in a more than respectable season.

Matt Barkley continues to prove why he was the No. 1-ranked high-school recruit two years ago. With almost 2,600 yards passing and 25 touchdowns, he has acquitted himself quite nicely. However, unlike the last 10 years, USC’s defense has been a sive.

Pete Carroll’s calling card as head coach was defense, but this year’s installment is ranked 78th in points allowed. They gave up 36 to a hapless Oregon State team.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame is trying to overcome a bevy of off-the-field distractions just to play on Saturdays. From a tragic death to an alleged sexual assault, it is hard for the Irish players to focus.

Five weeks ago, ND fans thought the season was lost after being trounced by Navy. Today, a victory over the Trojans means a 7-5 record and a great deal of momentum heading into a bowl game.

That’s right, the regular season is not really over until it is … well … over.

And for the first time in a long while it looks like this should be a good game.

Notre Dame’s spread offense is starting to click while their defense is gaining an identity.

On the other hand, USC can post an 8-4 record with a win, and, most likely, avoid many recruiting repercussions.

Again, though, the question remains. What happened to this yearly event?

USC may be in the PAC-10, and Notre Dame might be an Independent, but this is each school’s true “rivalry game. “

Cal, Stanford, Michigan and Boston College may stake a claim with each school when it comes to rivalries, but it is “USC versus Notre Dame” that grabs the spotlight. If someone does not believe that, just ask ABC and ESPN why they chose to make it the biggest game of their weekend slate.

This Saturday’s matchup features two head coaches with a lot to prove.

Can Notre Dame overcome the distractions and win in Los Angeles for the first time in 10 years?

Can USC toughen up on defense and stymie freshman quarterback Tommy Rees?

Both Brian Kelly and Lane Kiffin claim that their current job is their “dream job.”

Saturday’s outcome might go a long way in determining which one will walk among the clouds longer.

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