Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Irish Blogger Gathering: The Rivalry Edition

Subway Domer had an idea that a few of us Notre Dame bloggers might start a regular feature where we each tackle a list of five questions in our own unique styles and throw the results out there to hopefully stimulate some discussion among the Notre Dame fanatics. Plus, it's a great way to generate content for our blogs!

Since it was his idea, Subway got first shot at making up the questions, but that privilege will rotate amongst the group week-to-week. This week's questions are all about rivalries. Here's my take. (Questions cut & pasted verbatim from Subway's blog):

1. This is Notre Dame. Notre Dame is the game circled on just about every opposing teams schedule. They hate us and want to destroy us. So, it is safe to say that if ND plays a team every year, that game will become a big game for ND and an even bigger game for the opponent. So, pick any team that ND does not currently play and make that team a rival and create a rivalry trophy to go along with your rival of choice.

Subway Domer went with Penn State on this one, and it's not a bad choice. When I was a student at Notre Dame, the Penn State games were easily among the best games I saw. But ultimately Penn State doesn't work for me because they screwed up and joined the Big Televen. Notre Dame's schedule is already crammed full of Big Televen teams, so we don't need another team from that conference. I also think if we're going to create a big-time rivalry we need to go outside of the midwest. We play lots of teams from the midwest, we play several teams from the west coast. There are no worthy rivalry opponents in the east that we don't already play. We play Boston College, and that works as an okay rivalry.

But we don't have it going on in the South. We need to establish a big time rivalry with a worthy program from south of the Mason-Dixon line. We need to give our fans in that region a little love, and we need to increase our exposure there to help with recruiting. And we ultimately need to beat some teams from down there to put an end to all the talk about how Notre Dame doesn't have the speed to compete with teams from the South.

I rule out all the Florida schools. I hate 'em all, I don't want to lend any legitimacy to their programs by appearing on their schedules. Academically they are a collective embarrassment. They're all newcomers to Big Time football compared to Notre Dame, and I don't want to go to Florida to see the Irish play. So Florida, Florida State, Miami are all out.

I quickly narowed it down to two schools, each rich in football tradition and each with some history playing Notre Dame: Alabama and Texas.

Alabma has played the Irish six times (the first two times were the Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl games following the 1973 and 1974 seasons, both games won by the Irish). The Irish are 5-1 against the Tide, the only loss in 1986 when an unranked Lou Holtz team lost to #2 ranked 'Bama in Birmingham. If you run into a 'Bama fan in a bar and he starts getting all fired up about the Crimson Tide and Bear Bryant being the greatest coach ever, blah, blah, blah, be sure and ask him how the Bear did against Notre Dame in his career. (He was 0-fer). So the Tide have a lot going for them.

But in the end I chose the Texas Longhorns. Texas' football pedigree is beyond question, and they are also a very strong school academically. Notre Dame has played the Longhorns ten times starting all the way back in 1913, winning 8 of them. Three of those games include the Cotton Bowl games following the 1969, 1970, and 1977 seasons (ND lost the first of those three, won the other two). Notre Dame has a lot of alumni in Texas who would love to come see the Irish play, and Texas is a great region for ND to try to pry loose some quality recruits, like Heisman trophy winner Tim Brown who came to Notre Dame from Dallas, I believe. But the icing on the cake of this rivalry is that Austin, Texas is perennially rated one of the top college towns in America. Unlike any city you can name in Alabama, I would actually love to go to Austin for a weekend to see the Irish play UT. The campus is supposed to be fantastic, and downtown Austin is renowned for terrific food and music. Bring on the Longhorns!

What would the rivalry trophy look like? Man, I hated art projects in school. Let's go with a shillelagh like the Leprechaun carries around, with a set of steer horns mounted on the top. The winner each year paints the horns orange or blue & gold. Or you could have this for your trophy:

2. What current rival of ND (Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Boston College, Stanford, Southern California- all trophy games) would you take off of the schedule and never play again?

Michigan State. Drop 'em right now. They annoy me. We already play the premiere football team in Michigan, why do we need to play the runner up as well? What, exactly do they bring to the table? If we win, nobody gives a damn because it's just Sparty. If we lose, it's a big aggravated upset headache and we get a green flag planted on our field. There's no upside to playing these guys. Plus, MSU is a lousy road trip to a bad stadium on a mediocre campus. The other possibility was Purdue, but they are less annoying than Sparty, and we really should play the in-state rival, even if it's not very exciting.

Subway wants to drop Stanford. But Stanford is an elite academic institution that takes the concept of the student-athlete seriously. We should encourage schools that share that philosophy, and the best way to encourage them is to put them on our schedule and therefore on TV and get them a big payday. Plus, it pits the Irish against another Pac-10 opponent instead of another Big Televen team, and it get the Irish out to the west coast in odd-numbered years so I can go see them play. Tickets to Stanford games are easy to get, and we can't play Michigan, USC and Texas every week.

3. What entertainment rival (whether it be TV, movies, or celebrity) would you compare to ND and one of its current rivals?

Clearly Notre Dame is Bugs Bunny to Boston College's Daffy Duck. An interesting article about the Bugs/Daffy phenomenon in politics can be found here.

List your top 5 historical college football rivalries. After that, list your top 5 college football rivalries as of 2008.

Man, I gotta make a list? Two lists? Alright. Top 5 Historical college football rivalries:

  1. Army vs. Navy (How come it's never Navy vs. Army?)
  2. Auburn vs. Alabama (If you haven't ever visited Alabama, I can't explain it to you).
  3. Texas vs. Texas A & M (The Bonfire and the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas tradition)(I know it's just a movie)
  4. Notre Dame vs. USC
  5. Caltech vs. MIT (I know they don't play each other in football, but some of the greatest pranks of all time involved these two schools and college football games. Look it up.).
Top 5 college football rivalries as of 2008:
  1. Michigan vs. Ohio State
  2. Oklahoma vs. Texas
  3. Auburn vs. Alabama
  4. Notre Dame vs. USC
  5. Florida vs. Florida State

5. There are a lot of rivalry games out there. What is a great rivalry game that may not be as well known as the ones in your top 5 and explain why it so fantastic.

The game that gets overlooked every year is the "Battle of the Land Grants" between the Michigan State Spartans and the Nittany Lions of Penn State. This game has been played every year in an unbroken string going all the way back in 1993. These two proud land grant universities play for the venerable Land Grant Trophy, which was personally designed by former Michigan State head football coach George Perles. No, really. For a nice article mercilessly mocking this great rivalry and the trophy that goes with it, click here.

1 comment:

SubwayDomer26 said...

Great answers OC! Ahhh... Texas. I never wanted to be a cowboy so much in my life until now.