There will, of course, be plenty of discussion of ND-USC in our picks section on Thursday. Nonetheless, considering the importance of this game and, in an attempt to secure some good karma for the Irish, I would like to share my thoughts in a separate post on a day dedicated to Christopher Columbus, an exemplary colonizer and a fine Roman Catholic.
I have been outspoken in my belief that Charlie Weis is not equipped to restore Notre Dame to a championship level. As I have mentioned before, Jack Swarbrick, in my opinion, should have jettisoned Weis at the end of last year rather than allowing him to stick around for one more failed year, irrespective of recruiting concerns or other ancillary issues. Likewise, while I am encouraged by the attitude of the players and certain facets of this team, especially the offense, I would be surprised if Notre Dame won more than 8 games this year. We have played plenty of close games this year and it is reasonable to assume that there will be several more Maalox mashers against teams such as BC (ugh), Pitt, Connecticut, Stanford and perhaps even Navy. Again, this team seems to have heart, but there are only so many close calls that a team can survive.
Despite my prognostication of impending doom, this weekend’s visit from USC has created one final opportunity for Weis to save himself. Considering all of the relevant circumstances, it is not hyperbole to state that this is the most important game for Notre Dame in 15 years. If Weis could somehow find a way to defeat the Trojans, the program will be riding a tidal wave of momentum. With a victory, the Irish will vault into the top 15 of the polls and Jimmy Clausen will likely become the front runner for the Heisman Trophy. Moreover, given the sheer number of junior and senior recruits that will be at the game this weekend, a classic Notre Dame moment could inspire plenty of top-flight prospects to play their college football in South Bend. In sum, regardless of how ND got to this position (hint: the administration is chiefly culpable), Weis and company have an enormous chance to correct a litany of missteps in one fell swoop.
As for the game itself, I will refrain from delving into a detailed discussion of the various matchups especially since, as mentioned above, some of our esteemed contributors at WeIsND will perform a deeper analysis later this week. Suffice it to say, however, that the Irish, warts and all, are certainly capable of beating USC. In five games this year, this Notre Dame team has already shown that it has great leadership, plenty of heart and an unflappable poise in the most dire of situations. Furthermore, with a true freshman QB and an inexperienced defense, this is easily the most vulnerable USC team that Pete Carroll has fielded in the Weis era. Finally, notwithstanding its generally deserved reputation as an overly friendly venue to visitors, I am hopeful that Notre Dame Stadium will be a veritable lions den this Saturday.
From a personal standpoint, I have invested an overwhelming amount of time, money, effort and emotion into Notre Dame football and, thus far, all I have received is disappointment and heartbreak. After years and years of trauma, I should know better than to travel out to Notre Dame this weekend. I should also be wise enough to avoid buying into the hype and to suppress any thoughts that Weis can turn things around. In fact, if you asked me right now to predict the winner, I would select USC. Yet when I get to campus, and the beer starts flowing and the excitement starts building, there is no question that I will discard all of my rational thoughts and buy into the belief that Notre Dame will find a way to prevail. For once this time, I'd like for my irrational impulses to be correct.