Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Beat SC | by Pat

Plenty of spirited debate in the past few days about the potential matchups in the BCS bowls, the feasibility of a playoff system, and various poll conspiracy theories. But I'm here to tell you: none of that matters right now. There is only one thing that deserves attention: The University of Southern California Trojans.

This is SC week. Nothing else matters. I've seen way too many hypotheticals start with "if ND beats SC...". Wrong. We are not overlooking this game. It is the sole focus. The Trojans are a huge challenge for this Irish team and the game will have even more at stake than last year's classic.

I'll take it a step further: this game is going to be one of the defining games of the Weis era. A win will validate the praise heaped upon Charlie for the last two years, while a loss will crush us, giving critics (and opposing recruiters) even more ammo against a program that still would not have a signature win over a truly great opponent.

Brady Quinn and his classmates are going to go down as one of my favorite all-time classes at ND. And yet they are 0-3 against the Trojans, and one loss away from joining the 1981, 1982, and 2005 classes as the only graduating classes in ND history that lost to the Trojans for four straight years.

Consider that Notre Dame has a chance for 11 regular season wins for the first time since 1993. Consider that the collective rankings of the Irish (#5 AP, #6 Coaches) and the Trojans (#3 AP, #2 Coaches) going into the game is the highest combined since 1988, the year the Irish had to defeat SC in LA for the chance to play for the national championship.

Need more motivation? Consider that while Charlie is undefeated on the road, Pete Carroll has a home winning streak of 33 games and is undefeated, lifetime, in the month of November. Consider that none of the media pundits are giving the Irish a snowball's chance in hell of winning this game. Consider that the talk that the Irish "backdoored" themselves into the BCS has already started.

The players and coaches have all said the right things to the media, but we all know that this game has been a gold star on the schedule ever since the comeback win against Michigan State that salvaged the season. Each week they've had to say that the focus is only on Stanford, or North Carolina, or Army, and they've acquitted themselves pretty well in taking care of the business in front of them.

But how could you not look ahead? There is a reason the end of the Army game spontaneously erupted into a Southern Cal pep rally: we're finally here. We're finally at the game that everyone has been looking forward to since last October, when Reggie Bush pushed Matt Leinart into the end zone.

Go Irish. Beat Trojans!