Notre Dame Edition – 10/18/09

It is not possible for college football to get better than USC-Notre Dame.  I love all of college football, and if I were stranded in Sheboygan, WI and the only thing I could find on TV was a Wisconsin-Eau Claire vs. Beloit College contest, I would be just fine.  But, when you get to the highest levels of the sport (and make no mistake about it, the team of the decade, USC, is the highest level of this sport), rival games become too much fun for a human to legally have.  I have said before that I think there is nothing worse than losing to UCLA, but there is nothing better than beating Notre Dame.  I do not even celebrate when we beat UCLA; it is not a feat to be proud of.  But, when we lose to them, it is a sickening feeling.  On the other hand, with the tradition and prestige of Notre Dame football, I do not feel embarassed when we lose to them.  And when we beat them, the exhiliration is deserved and rational.  Two years ago, we beat Notre Dame 38-0 with our back-up quarterback, and their season ended up as among the worst in their history.  That game was not at the level of the 2005 classic (which is the greatest sporting event I have ever attended, or ever will).  But even 2007 was, for whatever reason, a thrill.  Sure, I would prefer to play an undefeated Notre Dame team every year, but a win over Notre Dame is a win over Notre Dame.  Only a Trojan knows the feeling.  And for the last 24 hours, Trojan Nation is feeling it yet again!

– The game was a classic on many levels.  Yes, the extraordinary defensive stand in the final seconds to hold off a rallying (and impressively unyielding) Irish squad was the apex of the game.  But there was so much more.  This year’s Notre Dame team has pulled out highly improbable last minute wins against Purdue, Michigan State, and Washington.  A repeat performance against the Trojans would have surely meant a completely new era for Notre Dame football.  Pete Carroll has never had a three-score lead turn into a loss (let alone a three score lead in the fourth quarter).  That defensive stand, complete with all the drama of TWO last second plays, was unforgettable.

– Level #2: The total coming out party of Matt Barkley, and frankly, our entire offense.  More comments on the offense in a bit, but Barkley was truly remarkable.  He remains undefeated at USC, and has just completed a three game sweep of Ohio State, Cal, and Notre Dame on the road.  His pocket presence is unreal.  His arm is remarkable.  His demeanor has been stellar.  I do not expect perfection, but we are not receiving all that much less than it.  The pick he threw was unfortunate, but his play yesterday was fantastic.  It is time to sweep the Oregon schools.

– Level #3: Anthony McCoy.  As my friend, Jason Carson, said: “Is it in the name?”  Is Anthony McCoy the new Notre Dame killer at USC with the first name Anthony?  Has Anthony Davis found company in the annals of Trojan folklore?  He may be a Tight End to you, but he was all-world to me yesterday, setting all time records for Tight Ends at USC in single game receiving yards, and who seemed to run downfield at will after the catch (with great ball protection to boot).  We have not seen the end of what McCoy will do within our offense.

– Beyond all the levels at which I consider yesterday a classic, I have plenty else to say about the game as well.  Most importantly, it needs to be said that USC would have won that game by 20 points or more if it were not for a series of mind-numbingly bad calls by the referees.  And where did these referees come from?  Ummmm … the Pac-10.  It gives new meaning to “home cooking”, doesn’t it?  Everson Griffin’s muscle flex is not a “personal foul”; Taylor Mays hitting a guy standing on the grass in bounds is not a personal foul; that finger tap at the end of the game on the quarterback was not a personal foul; and I am not even getting into the holds that Notre Dame got away with, or the late hit that Notre Dame put on Joe McKnight right in front of one official.  Yes, the Trojans need to be far more careful and conscientious.  But something needs to be done about what was happening yesterday.

– I don’t have anything against Jimmy Clausen, per se – I really don’t.  And I thought his fourth quarter performance was very impressive (though not as impressive as that beast, Golden Tate, who is absolutely the best wide receiver in all of college football, and may be the best sophomore wide receiver I have seen).  But I think if I were a Notre Dame fan I would be disgusted at Jimmy’s behavior throughout the game yesterday.  I love hyper-competitive temper tantrums as much as anyone, but the incessant huffing and puffing was unbecoming of a kid playing QB at Notre Dame.  He does not come off as the poised young man I think he has been presented as.  I see him more like a Brady Quinn so far: talented, under-achieving, unproven, cocky, and immature.  Let’s hope Clausen proves me wrong.  Compare Clausen’s behavior and demeanor, by the way, to true freshman, Matt Barkley.

– I was disappointed that Ronald Johnson struggled in his first game back, but we can hardly be surprised.  He will be the factor in this offense I have previously predicted he would be.

– I am curious to see going forward if our offense is just going to be a dominant passing team, as the 2006 offense ended up being (by necessity), or if the balance of run and pass will return.  It is comforting to know that when teams pack 8 or 9 up front and literally refuse to let us run, we can literally slice them to shreds in our passing game.  It is not a matter of run vs. pass; it is a matter of doing what the defense gives you.  We are finding our offensive stride.

– Charlie Weis is 1-16 against teams with a winning record in the last three years.  He is 24-3 against unranked teams.  Ay yi yi.  1-16 against teams with a basic winning record.

– I can’t continue to celebrate.  For one thing, my beloved Angels didn’t even late the good vibrations last through the remainder of the evening.  But more importantly, we have an Oregon State team that has beaten us two out of the last three years coming to the Coliseum.  Does Carroll have revenge on his mind?  5:00 pm at the Coliseum.  Sounds like an early arrival at Figueroa and the 110 Freeway to me.

– I will not talk about Oregon or the challenge of a Halloween road game in Eugene until we have played Oregon State.  Either will the team.  Either will the coaches.  Trust me.

– I am flabergasted by the chatter regarding this first draft BCS ranking issue.  If people want to know why we have the system we do, and why it is not going anywhere, look in the mirror.  Ignore this stupid system.  Wait for it to die the death it would inevitably die if we did not all play into it.  Win our own games.  Beat the Beavers,  And whatever you do, don’t ever, under any circumstances, validate this God-forsaken system.  I do not get mad at people who are trying to build a bicycle with square tires.  Just let the thing die.  The NCAA continues to say, “look at the interest and emotion around the country the BCS has launhed.”  These people are all pigs.  No one spends time fretting over pigs.

– I am too tired to care about the rest of the nonsense in the rankings and so forth.  If USC wins out, we will be in the Rose Bowl – the granddaddy of them all.  If we are not, it will be because we are in the fictitious BCS championship game.  Just win out.  To lose another makes it all obsolete.

– Did I read correctly that Notre Dame fumbled four times yesterday, but lost zero of them?  We need to force turnoverd the Oregon schools.  It’s alla about the ball.

So RoJo is back.  The only team that beat us all of last year is coming to our house.  Barkely is looking solid.  The defense just held off a furious Notre Dame rally.  The defense has been stellar all year. 

– I saw most of Texas/Oklahoma.  I saw snippets of Cal and UCLA.  I saw a few minutes of Alabama, and a few minutes if Florida. Partisanism is not even necessary.  Operation Chaos isunderway.

Okay.  I am dosing off, and it is a big wee ahead.  The pageantry of nthe Notre Dame game is back.  Time to ger ready.  We are halway there.  Fiight on, and thank you for reading the greatest college football lover of all time!!!!