Thursday, October 18, 2007

Now This Is a Rivalry | by Brian

This Saturday marks the 79th meeting of one of the college game's greatest rivalries, as USC travels to Notre Dame Stadium to take on the Fighting Irish (drink). With the exception of a three-year break during World War II, the schools have met on the gridiron every year since 1926. The series began during the tenures of head footbawl coaches Knute Rockne of Notre Dame and Howard Jones of Southern Cal. The USC program was looking to make a name for itself (having cast aside their original mascot, Lifestyles: Her Pleasure), while Rockne's Ramblers had established themselves as the nation's preeminent squad.

USC Footbawl Patriarch Howard Jones
As the story goes, Rockne was reluctant to take his team on the long trip to Southern California every two years, but the wife of Gwynn Wilson, who served at SC in a position along the lines of the modern-day athletic director, convinced Rockne's wife of the appeal of heading to the fun and sun of SoCal every other year. (Note: Mrs. Wilson may or may not have used the actual phrase "SoCal" back in the mid-1920's.)

The rest, as they say, is history. Knute Rockne went on to win two more national titles at ND before dying tragically in a plane crash in 1931. Gwynn Wilson went on to do many fine things, of that I am quite certain, just don't ask me what. And Howard Jones went on to record such '80's smash hits as No One Is To Blame and Things Can Only Get Better.

Pontiac Game Changer of the Week: Carl Spackler

The most important person associated with the Notre Dame program this week is not new starting quarterback Evan Sharpley (the Sharp-Dressed Man). It is not Trevor Laws or Maurice Crum, and it is not even Coach Weis. No, the key to the game for the Irish is Head Greenskeeper Carl Spackler. Spackler is in charge of installing the Super Secret Grass Surface in Notre Dame Stadium this week, in an attempt to slow down the merciless assault of the Trojan offense. When reached for comment, Spackler elaborated:
"This is a hybrid. This is a cross, ah, of Bluegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Featherbed Bent, and Northern California Sensemilia. The amazing stuff about this is, that you can play 6 overtimes on it in the afternoon, take it home and just get stoned to the bejeezus-belt that night on this stuff."
The Notre Dame administration has declined to comment on reports that, in their usual heavy-handed draconian fashion, they will again kick Irish point guard Kyle McAlarney out of school if he so much as steps foot in the stadium on Saturday.

The USC Song Girls get the lay of the land at Notre Dame Stadium

They Don't Play the Games on Paper

On paper, the Trojans came into the 2007 season with an offensive unit that would scare the stink off a skunk, and the attitude to make him feel self-conscious about it. The projected starting lineup was full of recruits with more stars than Ursa Major and Minor combined, no doubt possessing ample amounts of Pac 10 Speed:

2007 USC Starting Offense, Projected
QB John David Booty
RB Emmanuel Moody
RB C.J. Gable
RB Chauncey Washington
RB Stafon Johnson
RB Joe McKnight
RB Hershel Dennis
RB Broderick Green
RB Desmond Reed
RB Marc Tyler
RB Allen Bradford

Other than possessing a tendency of running to set up the run, only to beat you over the top with a play-action run, this talented squad presented a tough challenge to opposing coaches.

However, by this point, the offense has suffered a great deal of attrition. Moody transferred to Florida. Gable is out for the season with an injury. Johnson, Green, and Tyler have also been injured (though Johnson may have toughened up enough to roll on a Trojan uniform this week). The lineup now includes honest-to-god linemen and receivers, giving the Trojans a more traditional look that is easier to attack from a defensive perspective.

More notable is the recent change in quarterback. A combination of ineffectiveness and injury forced Booty (whom I refer to as Fairweather Johnson, since the much-anticipated follow-up to a great first season as starter has been largely a disappointment) to the sideline for last week's game with Arizona, in favor of former high school player of the year Mark Sanchez, or as I call him, Vosotros, since he is seldom used and rarely recognized.

The SC defense has not been immune to the injury bug itself. Linebacker Chris Galippo (back) and defensive back Josh Pinkard (torn ACL) are out for the year. Linebacker Brian Cushing also is coming into the game a little soft, and Rey Maualuga thinks he may have left a vowel back in his dorm room. Nevertheless, the SC defense remains one of the stoutest in the college game (drink), ranking 3rd nationally against the run with 66.8 yards per game, and 8th in total yards allowed with 266.7 YPG.

If the Irish are to win this game, it will probably have to be similar to the UCLA win, with the defense creating turnovers and possibly getting into the endzone, to pick up an Irish offense which figures to have a long day, what with it being a Saturday and all. John David Booty and McLeod Bethel-Thompson both have three names. Coincidence? You better believe it.

Unclean!!! Unclean!!!

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OJ being OJ
"Some break the rules
And live to count the cost.
The insecurity is the thing that won't get lost."
---Howard Jones, No One Is To Blame

Let's not mince words: the USC program is dirtier than the helmet of the Dread Pirate Manny. First of all, there's this (right).

But the troubles didn't begin and end with the Juice. The Trojan program is currently embroiled in an investigation surrounding benefits received by the family of 2005 Heisman's Trophy winner Reggie Bush. Allegations allege that Bush and his family received benefits from prospective agents while he was still playing for SC, with Bush's family most notably living rent-free in a $750,000 house for a year. This could lead to sanctions for the USC program, and Bush could theoretically have to give up his Heisman if he is ruled to have been ineligible in 2005.

Bush has utilized his renowned escapability, consistently refusing to comment on the matter, citing pre-release confidentiality obligations under his contract with HarperCollins, the publisher of his forthcoming book If I Did It: How I Would Have Received Benefits From Prospective Agents While Still Playing For SC, Most Notably Living Rent-Free in a $750,000 House for a Year.

A Look Deep Into the NCAA Rulebook

When the Trojans last came to ND two years ago, they won a 34-31 classic which ended in controversy when Reggie Bush pushed quarterback Matt Leinart into the endzone with seconds remaining for the winning score. This was in violation of Rule 9, Section 3, Article 2B of the NCAA rulebook:

"You cheat, Dr. Jones. You cheat!"
"The runner shall not grasp a teammate; and no other player of his team shall grasp, push, lift or charge into him to assist him in forward progress. PENALTY---five yards from the basic spot"

USC faithful rallied to the officials' defense, pointing out that it's a little-known penalty which is seldom called in the college game (drink). In that spirit, we at BGS would like to take the opportunity to inform the officiating crew assigned to this week's game of some other obscure rules which the Trojans may try to stretch to its furthest limits, ultimately tearing the lubricated fabric of justice, spilling the abundant seed of dishonesty all over the field. Carl Spackler would not be pleased by the sticky icky.

* Rule 7, Section 2, Article 3A: Personal Foul --- Staged Homicide

Hypothetical Situation: Fairweather Johnson is intercepted by Maurice Crum, the quarterback's third pick of the game. He's playing like an ass. From the sidelines, a deranged Pete Carroll runs onto the field, carrying a spear and looking for a fight. He appears to run Booty through with the spear, killing him instantly, but ultimately Booty is revealed to be perfectly fine, thanks to the technological wizardy of a prominent alumni, George Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic. Carroll later says that he staged the stunt to keep the mood of his team light through the tried-and-true practice of making you think your teammate, the one you ride and die with, has shuffled off this mortal coil.

Signal: The referee mimes banging a gavel, as if passing sentence.

Penalty: 15 yards from the end of the return and a loss of down.

* Rule 10, Section 4, Article 1C: Ineligible Law Enforcement On the Field

Hypothetical Situation: Rey Maualuga, who claims to "own the police" but still refuses to present appropriate documentation, brings a cop across to the Notre Dame sideline to arrest Top Jimmy for violating obscure Indiana blue laws.

Signal: The referee twirls his index finger above his head, like an umpire signalling a home run, while mimicking the noise a siren makes.

Penalty: Ten yards, automatic first down.

* Rule 12, Section 3, Article 2B: Illegal Use of Beanbags

Hypothetical Situation: Former SC quarterback, de facto Bengal warden and 2002 Heisman's Trophy winner, Carson Palmer runs out onto the field, equipment in hand, to interrupt an Irish drive with a spirited game of the noble "sport" of cornhole.

Signal: The referee makes an underhanded throwing motion and then, having apparently missed his shot, mimicks drinking a beer.

Penalty: Dead ball foul, five yards, repeat the down until someone scores 21.

Prediction From The Blind Oracle At Bristol

"A foe of ancient lore invades, wounded but dangerous. Their leader, jacked, pumped, psyched, and tanned, steers his charges into battle. I see a Fleetwood Mac cover band in their midst. Bottom line, the Irish lack the team speed to keep up with the Trojans. USC beats Notre Dame 35-10."