It warms my heart to know that a couple of my buddies bit on the April Fools joke last week. Thankfully, the cancellation of the 7:30pm kickoff was a farce and all systems are still go for what is sure to be one of the electrifying home games in years.
Let's celebrate the fact that it's only 198 days away by going down a list of ten things to expect from the first night game since Rick Mirer's first start.
#10: The Mother of All Tailgates
The Irish Faithful are known to tailgate. The range and scope of these tailgates varies greatly from the older, more mature alumni that put out phenomenal and elaborate spreads to the student tailgates where Keystone and Natural Light are frequently drank out of a hole in the side of the can. Full beer flip cup anyone?
No matter which route a fan decides to go on October 22, they'll have to be prepared for an extra four hours. That means not only having breakfast and lunch ready, but dinner as well. The number of brats, burgers and beers consumed will be off the charts.
There's no other way to spin it: It will be glorious.
#9: Higher Ratings
NBC has been carrying every Notre Dame home game since 1991. Over the course of that time frame, there have been exactly zero games hosted at night. The previous administration of Notre Dame, headed by Fr. Monk Malloy, was vehemently against the night game concept for a variety of reasons, so it put the kibosh on them, much to the chagrin of the network.
Recently, though, the network began pushing more for the night kickoff. Notre Dame moved toward it by granting NBC a primetime game each year at a neutral site. The excitement among fans that the night kickoff has generated is equaled by NBC, because a Notre Dame-Southern Cal 7:30 p.m. kickoff should be a ratings bonanza, especially if both teams have successful starts to the season.
The Irish are the only college football team NBC broadcasts, so there has always been a gaping hole on Saturday nights when competing with CBS, ABC and ESPN for viewership. On October 22, that won't be an issue.
#8: Grumpy Old Men
While the vast majority of the fans are extremely excited about the prospect of a night game at Notre Dame Stadium, there is a small percentage that is upset about moving kickoff back four hours. All of these detractors are in the "older alumni" demographic and are much more concerned with the fact that it may be a bit colder, and it will result in them getting back to their beds much later than normal.
It's not a good thing that these people exist, but it's reality. There is a silver lining within this fact, though, and it's reason numero seven.
#7: A Younger Crowd
The night kickoff is not up the alley of the aforementioned older alumni; in fact, they're not only unexcited about it, they're downright upset and many will pass on going to the game. On the other hand, you have young alumni who are so excited about the prospect of a night game that they're willing to barter their first born to get their hands on a ticket (my first two children if the seat is on the 50-yard line).
The combination is going to lead to a much younger and more enthusiastic crowd. This is something many people have craved for years and it should lead to an even more pronounced homefield advantage.
#6: Colder Temperatures
The arrangement that Notre Dame and Southern Cal have says that all games played at Notre Dame Stadium will be held in October instead of during the cold of November. Many Irish fans wish that wasn't the case so that the "pretty boys" from the West Coast had to deal with the elements.
The average high temperature in South Bend on October 22 is 62 degrees. The average low? 42.
The night kickoff means that it's far more likely that the Trojans will have to deal with the cold, something they typically never have to do. The last time it was bitterly cold and miserable was 1995, and the Irish smacked Keyshawn Johnson and top 10 ranked Southern Cal in the mouth 38-10 (Oh hey, meet Kinnon Tatum). It was apparent from early on that Southern Cal was completely thrown off by the weather, and the Irish seized the opportunity.
Could it happen again? Certainly a better chance of it under the lights than under the sun.
#5: The Return of the Pep Rally
In recent years, the pep rally has declined to the point where it's just about on life support. A night game at Notre Dame will create the necessary excitement to re-energize the rally.
Six years ago, over 55,000 fans packed Notre Dame Stadium before the epic showdown with Southern Cal. The craziness surrounding this edition of the rivalry will have the masses out in full force, and once again, Friday night will be rocking, whether it's in the JACC or the Stadium.
(I can dream, right?)
#4: Michael Floyd
Michael Floyd made a terrible mistake last month when he drove drunk and was arrested for DUI. He deserves to be punished and will be.
By all accounts, though, his football career at Notre Dame is not over. Whether the suspension is three, four or six games, he will still be back in time to face off against Southern Cal. He's only had that opportunity once since he missed the game due to injury his freshman and sophomore seasons.
He's going to say all the right things leading up to his reinstatement, and I hope for his sake he'll do all the right things as well. Once he gets on that field, he's going to be a terror, and the Trojans will be on the wrong side of his fury October 22.
#3: Green Jerseys
Love them or hate them, the green jerseys are going to be coming out. And you know what? People should embrace it.
The entrance for the 2005 game was absolutely electric, and it took the energy in the stadium up to another level. When the Irish pour out onto the field in green under the lights October 22, it will have the same effect.
#2: Amped Up Noise Level
The beginning of the Notre Dame-Southern Cal game this fall is going to be absolutely deafening. It will be the perfect storm of fans fueled by an extra four hours of tailgating combined with pure adrenaline and excitement.
In 1988, the crowd for a night showdown with Michigan was so rowdy and loud that the Irish were actually assessed a penalty. Will the student body and young alums be up for that sort of performance? Something tells me there's 21 years of pent up rage ready to explode on the Trojans when the team emerges from the tunnel at 7:26 p.m.
#1: An Irish Victory
Notre Dame has only played seven home games at night in their illustrious history. Their record in those games? 6-1. The only loss came under the watch of Gerry Faust, an era in which Notre Dame fans don't like to acknowledge actually existed.
The Irish conquered the giant that is Southern Cal last season for the first time since 2001. Armed with that confidence and fueled by what is sure to be an absolutely electric atmosphere in Notre Dame Stadium, the Irish will find a way to win this game.
A new era in this rivalry has dawned, and the scales are tipping in favor of the Irish. On October 22, the question will not be if Notre Dame is wins the game; it will be figuring out what the final margin of victory will ultimately be.