Friday, October 21, 2011

Irish Blogger Gathering: BEAT SC Edition

I've been on a hiatus from blogging for the past few weeks, as I've been focusing on my practice.  However, as I have the hosting duties for the USC Irish Blogger Gathering, I've managed to muster up the time to put a little something together for you guys.  Maybe a "little" something is misleading, as my fellow bloggers seemed daunted by the task laid before them.  But it's SC week.  You gotta give a little extra.

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?

Since I'm the one hosting the IBG this week, I'm going to hold off on answering this one myself, and see what my fellow bloggers have to say on the subject.  I'll repost my favorite answers here.

Keith at NBC Sports: You’re not in the business of converting somebody. Leave that to Brian Kelly. Let the game and environment speak for itself. If she doesn’t like Notre Dame any better after Saturday, save your next USC ticket for someone else next time!

Matt at We Never Graduate: I hate to be the one who breaks this to you, but she’s a Buckeye fan. She’s not salvageable.

Steve at Gameday 40: Now as to your friend, since its a night game you should have plenty of time on your hands to see all the sights and you might be able to charm her with a few of our traditions... Most non-domers I’ve given the tour to really are impressed by the tradition and remark how it really is different than most other college-football environments.  (Steve, your objections have been noted.  And overruled.)

Subway Domer: Haters gonna hate.

Frank at UHND: Walk around campus on Thursday or Friday and hit up all of the sites before a lot of people arrive on campus.  Go to the Grotto and light a candle.   Listen to the trumpets in the Dome on Friday.  Rub Rock’s nose. Go to the Midnight Drummer’s Circle on Friday night.  Ever since I stopped attending pep rallies, I’ve gone to the drummer’s circle instead and I still love it. On gameday, make sure to tailgate early so you have time to hit up the player’s walk to the stadium and the band’s concert.  Lastly, make sure to make at least one trip to the Backer during the weekend.

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?

There is nothing on earth quite like a Notre Dame football weekend in my eyes.  Everything about it, from the tailgating, the walk, the concert on the steps, step-off and the traditions that come with the game itself are amazing.  The only thing I would change is to try and work with the ushers to foster a more fervent crowd.  I've actually been asked to calm down by an usher for simply cheering for my team.  I wasn't being disrespectful or rude, just really loud and passionate about the game on the field.  I'd like to see the stadium expand and offer some luxury suites where the old fogeys could go sit and enjoy the game and get out of the good seats where we need louder younger fans who aren't afraid to get up and yell with the Irish.

I also think that they need to change the pep rallys.  Put it back in the Stepan Center, with student-only admittance.  Put up a big screen and some speakers on the Irish Green for everyone that wants to hear the speeches.  But the purpose of a pep rally is to fire up the team - not to put on a song-and-dance for the fans visiting town.

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. 

USC is our biggest rival, and one of the greatest rivalries in all of college football.  I think it is such an important rivalry because these two teams, throughout history, have had something to say about each year's national title and Heisman Trophy.  Here are my top 10:

1.  Army/Navy
No game inspires more fervency than this one.  Relevant?  Not so much.  But there is no better tradition anywhere in sport than when these two teams face off.  It's not just football - it's patriotism.

2.  Michigan/Ohio State  "The Game"
Surprisingly, I rank this ahead of the Notre Dame / USC rivalry.  It's always played at the end of the season in two of the best stadiums in the country.  It often has an impact on the national title, and there is a special kind of hatred between the two teams.

3.  Notre Dame/USC
There is so much that makes this rivalry great.  There is a great mutual respect between the schools, but also plenty of hate when it comes to the football programs.  Notre Dame represents the midwest blue collar conservative persona, and Southern Cal is the glitz and glamour of Hollywood with all of it's excesses.  They're 2,000 miles apart.  It's spanned most of the history of the sport.  And there is no other rivalry that has had such a huge impact on the National Title and Heisman Trophy over the years.

4. Oklahoma/Texas "Red River Rivalry"
This one is awesome because it's always played at the neutral Cotton Bowl midway between the two schools, and the stadium is split down the midddle between Crimson and Burnt Orange.  Two historically powerful programs that often have national title implications on the line.

5. Alabama/Auburn "The Iron Bowl"
An in-state rivalry that inspires some of the most intense hatred of any of the rivalries.  Alabama in many ways is the crown jewel of the SEC, and this is their most hated rival.  And Auburn isn't exactly a pushover, either.

6. Florida/Georgia fka "Greatest Outdoor Cocktail Party"
A rivalry that (until recently) touted the tailgating as the primary focus of the rivalry gets big-time bonus points.  Two powerful SEC schools that inspire some intense feelings, and two great stadiums.

7. Lafayette/LeHigh "The Rivalry"
This one's called the rivalry because no matter what division they play in, these two schools have been going at it longer than anyone else.  It's the most-played and longest uninterrupted rivalry in football.

8. Harvard/Yale "The Game"
Two of the best teams from the very early days of football have been doing this longer than almost anyone, and was often the game that decided the national title.  They are two of the most prestigious and historic universities in the country.  Also, bonus points because MIT students like to set up elaborate pranks during the game.

9. Cal/Stanford "Big Game"
This one makes this list almost entirely because they get bonus points for "The Play."  Inarguably one of the most dramatic ways to end a game in one of the most historic rivalries in the country.

10. Missouri/Kansas "The Border War"
I didn't want to put any team on the list twice, as I believe that you're really only entitled to one truly great rivalry per school.  And this rivalry goes back to the days before football - heck, before the Civil War.  Read your history books.

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?

I'm cautiously optimistic.  The team seems to have worked out most of its turnover issues, and Tommy Rees' numbers look good.  But I still shudder at some of the passes he throws.  He's actually becoming a gunslinger, which is a ticking time bomb for this team.  But as long as we keep our turnovers to a minimum, I don't think Southern Cal can keep up with the Irish firepower.  SC's defense will struggle to slow down the Notre Dame offense, and Notre Dame's defense will find ways to slow down SC's offense (although they are a potent offense and will get plenty of points.

Notre Dame 37, Southern Cal 31

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

(b) Notre Dame's bowl destination, opponent and outcome: Sugar Bowl versus Alabama.  Notre Dame wins an ugly defensive struggle, 17-14.

(c) The BCS Championship game and result:  LSU loses to Wisconsin.

(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: Bret Bielema

(iii) Davey O'Brien Award (best QB): Andrew Luck

(iv) Doak Walker Award (best RB): Trent Richardson

(v) Fred Biletnikoff Award (best WR): Michael Floyd

(vi) Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player): Luke Kuechly, Boston College

Go Irish! Beat SC!