Friday, October 21, 2011

Irish Blogger Gathering: Converting the Unconvertable

Domer Law brings the questions this week and I bring the answers from an Einstein Bagel in Chicago while I wait for my ride to South Bend/Tailgate-a-geddon/Notre Dame-Southern Cal. Let's get to it.

1. I'm taking an old friend of mine to the USC game. They were born and raised in South Bend near Notre Dame, and developed a dislike for the University at a young age from dealing with the frustrations and messes that come from Notre Dame home football weekends. She's never been to a Notre Dame game before (she's an Ohio State fan). We're going to go tailgate and do all the usual tailgating stuff. Any suggestions on what I could do to help her let go of her animosity towards Notre Dame?

I hate to be the one who breaks this to you, but she’s a Buckeye fan. She’s not salvageable. But for the sake of denial, let’s pretend she can be saved. Take a trip to The Grotto (soften the heart out of the gate) followed by a raging tailgate where she can bond with Irish fans over a mutual hatred of Michigan. Finding things you have in common breaks down barriers. My boys and I will be under the giant “Yard Sale” flag next to Legends with all the Michigan hate in the world to share with her if you need a hand.

2. On a related note, do you have any suggestions for improving the Notre Dame game weekend experience generally? Are there traditions lost that you'd like to see restored, or new ideas that you'd like to see implemented to improve the gameday experience?

I love gameday at Notre Dame, but my biggest beef with the experience of the entire weekend has been the completely obliteration of the pep rally. The “Rally on the Green” is indescribably horrendous and embarrassing. The administration has officially waved the white flag on having students play a role in it or caring an iota about it. It’s catered to little kids—which is not the way it should be—and it’s outdoors—which is terrible.

One of the best moments of the weekend used to be when the band flooded into the JACC through the tunnels blasting the Victory March. In my eyes it officially kicked off a Notre Dame football weekend. It was worth sitting through the rest of the rally—no matter how good or bad it was (and it was usually bad)—just for those two minutes.

3. (a) USC is (and always will be) our biggest rival. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? And if you agree, why do you feel that this is such an important rivalry? (b) Rank your top 10 college football rivalries and provide justifications for each.

There will be others that arise in spurts that will be more meaningful in the moment than Southern Cal (ex: Miami in the late 80’s), but over time the Trojans will always be our chief rival. The history runs incredibly deep, laced with heartbreaks and glorious triumphs on both sides. Memorable contests cement great rivalries and there isn’t another opponent in Notre Dame’s long history that’s delivered as many as Southern Cal. The Irish victories in ’73 and ’77 are two of the most celebrated victories of all-time while the ’64 and ’05 losses are almost undoubtedly the two most heartbreaking losses in school history.

Top 10 Rivalries

These are the ten rivalries that I'll go out of my way to make sure I watch every year:

Army-Navy...I mean, come on.
Ohio State-Michigan...Far and away the biggest game in the Big Ten.
Texas-Texas A&M...Always an entertaining contest on Thanksgiving weekend. Way to ruin it, Aggies.
Oregon-Oregon State...Love the Civil War.
Alabama-Auburn...Roll Tide.
Clemson-South Carolina...There is an underrated amount of hate in this rivalry which is so necessary.
UCF-UConn...brought to you by the braintrust of the Big East Conference.
Georgia-Georgia Tech...Any game called "Good Ol' Fashioned Hate" is worth watching.
Oklahoma-Oklahoma St...Bedlam.
Oklahoma-Texas...Loses points because it's always at a neutral site.

4. Southern Cal is 5-1, with their only loss on the road at Arizona State. They are unranked, sitting right behind us in the "also receiving votes" category. How good is Southern Cal this year? How do you see this game playing out?

They’re very middle of the road, way down by Southern Cal standards. There are still studs on both sides of the ball, but for the first time in over a decade Notre Dame has a clear advantages in the trenches on offense and defense. If both teams play their best game, the Trojans cannot keep up with the Irish. It felt so good to type that.

That being said, Notre Dame displayed an otherworldly ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the first two weeks of the season. Southern Cal is far better than South Florida and Michigan and is more than capable of walking into Notre Dame Stadium and leaving with a victory.

That’s not happening on this night though.

As much as I’d like to see Notre Dame blow the doors off Southern Cal and rub Lane Kiffin’s face in the turf, I think it’ll be a close game where we get down early due to a stupid mistake or two and have to claw back. David Ruffer snaps back and drills three field goals that prove to be the difference. Notre Dame 23, Southern Cal 20.

5. It appears that with a win over USC, we'll re-enter the Top 25 rankings. Now that we're halfway through the season and have some actual evidence available to us from real games, how do you see the rest of the season playing out? Predict:

(a) Notre Dame's final record (indicating where we will lose if at all) – 10-2…I think Stanford is overrated and that’s the only team other than So Cal that can scare us.
(b) Notre Dame's bowl destination, opponent and outcome – Fiesta Bowl vs Boise…Notre Dame 34, Boise State 33
(c) The BCS Championship game and result – Alabama 31, Oklahoma 13
(d) Notre Dame's final AP ranking – #6
(e) The winners of the major awards, including:
(i) Heisman Trophy – Trent Richardson
(ii) Home Depot Coach of the Year - Dabo Swinney
(iii) Davey O'Brien Award (best QB) – Kellen Moore
(iv) Doak Walker Award (best RB) – Trent Richardson
(v) Fred Biletnikoff Award (best WR) – Ryan Broyles
(vi) Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player) - Donta Hightower

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