Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Irish Blogger Gathering: Turkey, Stuffing, and Horse Meat Edition

It's Southern Cal week which means it's time for the OC Domer to supply the IBG with a slew of questions from the Left Coast. Head over there to see his answers and the other blogs' responses.

1. Notre Dame played perhaps its best game of the year in a win over the Utah Utes two weeks ago. Utah remains ranked at #23 in the Associated Press poll. Notre Dame likewise took Michigan State (AP #11) to overtime before losing on a fake field goal. Therefore the Irish should have no trouble with this unranked Trojan squad. Agree or disagree? Show your work.

Obviously I completely disagree. First of all, let's address Utah and Michigan State. The Utes a very good and well-coached team, but they're not even close to elite and their talent level doesn't measure up to the Irish. Sparty has had a great year but they've also been thoroughly unimpressive with one notable exception (beating Wisconsin handily). Their record and resume say they deserve their ranking, but I think that's more of a testament to the tremendous coaching job Mark Dantonio has done this season as opposed to how good and talented the team is.

This Saturday we'll be facing the only team on our schedule with undeniably more talent up and down the roster. Southern Cal may not be having a season that measures up to the ones the Utes and Spartans are having, but they still provide a far sterner test than those current Top 25 teams.

What's the great equalizer of great talent? Great coaching with a great gameplan. While most would argue Kyle Whittingham and Mark Dantonio have done fantastic jobs maximizing the talent on their rosters, very few would assign that distinction to Lane Kiffin in his initial campaign in LA. This contest doesn't look impossible like it did after the Tulsa debacle but the Irish still have an uphill battle to emerge victorious.

2. It is almost time for the OC Domer Player of the Year to be named. This award is intended to recognize the Notre Dame football player or players who played the best when it mattered the most. Suffice it to say that the primary criterion is a consistently high level of play, with significant bonus points awarded for exceeding expectations. Injuries have taken many of the pre-season favorites for this prestigious award out of the running. Who is your nominee for this award, and why?

Injuries really have gutted a lot of the candidates--from Carlo Calabrese to Armando Allen to Theo Riddick. Ian Williams was the anchor of a much improved defensive line and blew away my expectations going into the year. He'd be the runaway winner had he stayed healthy, but since he's one of the walking wounded that's been out for 3+ games it's tough to hand him the honor. I'll choose Gary Gray.

I always liked Gray, but even his staunchest supporters would've had a hard time predicting that he'd emerge as the best Notre Dame cornerback since Shane Walton. He's been great in coverage and the most consistent tackler on the entire team. He said after the Utah game that he'd be back for a fifth lap in South Bend--great news for all Irish fans.

3. With a delicate flavor similar to beef, though slightly sweeter than other meats, horse meat can be used to replace beef, pork, mutton, and any other meat in virtually any recipe, though most aficionados prefer it in marinated or spicy dishes. Nutritionally, horse meat has around 40 percent fewer calories than the leanest beef, while supplying 50 percent more protein and as much as 30 percent more iron; and horse fat is considered an excellent health-conscious deep-frying alternative, especially for delicately-flavored foods that are easily overpowered by heavier oils. What is your favorite horse meat recipe?

Impale Traveler, marinate him in Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce, put him on a spittle, roast him over an open fire until he's medium-well, and then eat him like a viking.

4. Do you miss Pat Haden, who left the Notre Dame television broadcasts to become athletic director at USC?

Unlike a lot of people I thought Haden did a very good job providing level-headed and unbiased analysis during his time at NBC...but Mike Mayock has been absolutely fantastic and an undeniable upgrade. Sorry Pat, I don't miss you. Good luck cleaning up a program led by Lane Kiffin.

5. USC is the Notre Dame rival I love to hate. What Notre Dame rival do you most despise, and why?

It has to be Southern Cal and the basis comes from both history and personal experience. It starts with the screwjob Notre Dame got at the hands of the referees in the ultimate game of Ara Parseghian's magical 1964 season. It continues with the most arrogant, cocky, showboating Trojan of them all, Anthony Davis. This is a man whose best moment in his entire life was when a Notre Dame loving nun approached him and said he must be the devil because he did so well against the Irish. Glad to see his life has turned out well.

We move on to the final game of Lou Holtz's career at Notre Dame, when a Jim Sanson missed PAT opened the door for Southern Cal to storm back and send Lou out a loser in overtime. I guess we skipped over Keyshawn Johnson talking trash about how Notre Dame didn't belong on the same field as the Trojans...and then promptly went out and got his ass beat 38-10 in South Bend. His ignorance and stupidity is now on display every week on ESPN's NFL coverage and every once in awhile he chimes in about how Ty Willingham should be coach. Gag.

In 2002 they undressed and exposed Ty Willingham as a fraud, beginning a decade of complete dominance over Notre Dame. There were multiple embarrassing blowouts ('02, '03, '04, '07, '08) and heartbreaking defeats. Last year's Irish effort that came up less than 10 yards short was a punch to the gut, but nothing compares to the devastating game played on the Ides of October 2005.

On that day Southern Cal cemented itself as Public Enemy #1 in my eyes for all eternity. We played a perfect game, did everything necessary to emerge victorious and conquer the unconquerable foe...and with one illegal push in the blink of an eye they stole a Notre Dame Moment--what should've been my and the rest of the student body's Notre Dame Moment.

So Men of Troy, I'd like to raise my glass to you as winner of the title of most hated rival...and then I'd like to break that glass over your heads.

6. Reggie Bush got a car, his parents a house. Cam Newton's Dad was looking for $180,000 in straight cash homey. Can Notre Dame compete for athletic recruits in this environment? Or do you believe these incidents are the exceptions to an otherwise clean recruiting landscape?

Listen: it's naive to think that schools paying players and providing illegal benefits is a rare occurrence. However, it's equally naive to think this didn't happen in the 60's, 70's, and 80's as well--all decades in which Notre Dame won national championships. I'm sure a lot of people watched the 30 for 30 on Marcus Dupree, a wild and illegal recruitment that happened thirty years ago.

Notre Dame is certainly at a disadvantage to schools that are willing to pony up cheddar to reel in top level talent, but it's not a crippling one. The Irish have overcome it before (Free Shoes University anybody?) and they will do it again in the future.

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