Living in Southern California as I do, Subway Domer is kind enough to let me be the host for this week's edition of the Irish Blogger Gathering. It's an exciting week here at OC Domer Headquarters. As I type this our daughter is on a plane flying home for Thanksgiving (and the ND v. USC game). She is bringing her roommate with her, and we are going to be seeing a lot of her OC and Notre Dame friends over the next several days. OC Headquarters is as clean and ship-shape as it has ever been, as Mrs. Domer has had us working overtime for weeks in preparation. But now that all the preparations are complete, we can turn our full attention to those heathens who call themselves the "Trojans." I don't think I can over-emphasize the importance of this game to all the Notre Dame alumni and fans here in Orange County. This is Trojan country, and this game is for a full year's worth of bragging rights. I don't know if you have a lot of interaction with USC's bandwagon fans where you live, but I can tell you that the last thing you want to give a Trojan is a year's worth of bragging rights. You might think that having a National Championship, a Heisman Trophy, and two years of bowl eligibility stripped from them by the NCAA would teach them a little humility. You would be wrong.
USC has had a nice little run lately against the Irish, having won eight in a row. It's almost enough to make you forget that the Irish owned USC for 13 years in a row from 1983 through 1995, or that Notre Dame leads the all-time series over USC 42-34-5.
Both of these teams are in transition. The Irish are beginning what they hope will be a long, successful run under new head coach Brian Kelly. USC said a tearful goodbye to Pete Carroll and is now led by Lane Kiffin. It hasn't been pretty for either team this season. USC of course got hammered by the NCAA, and they have lost four games to PAC-10 opponents so far, getting completely undressed by Oregon and Oregon State. The Irish have had troubles of their own, losing five games so far and having been whipped by Stanford and Navy. Yes, whipped by Navy. The Irish have not had any NCAA trouble, but they have been beset by a rash of injuries to key personnel and a tragic death within the program. The good news for Irish fans is that the team is playing its best football of the year behind freshman quarterback Tommy Rees and a defense that seems to have finally got its groove on with outstanding performances against Utah and Army in the last two games, whereas USC is coming off a beat-down at Corvallis and may have lost their starting quarterback to a high ankle sprain.
Which brings us to this week's IBG questions:
1. Notre Dame played perhaps its best game of the year in a win over the Utah Utes two weeks ago. Utah remains ranked at #23 in the Associated Press poll. Notre Dame likewise took Michigan State (AP #11) to overtime before losing on a fake field goal. Therefore the Irish should have no trouble with this unranked Trojan squad. Agree or disagree? Show your work.
Disagree. USC is unranked, but perhaps unfairly. Yes, Oregon and Oregon State whipped them pretty good. But those are two great teams (#1 and #22 in the Sagarin ratings). But USC has also beaten California, Arizona, and Arizona State (#27, #17, and #29 in Sagarin). They lost to Stanford (Sagarin #2) by just two points. You might recall that Stanford beat the Irish by 23.
Although the Irish win over a ranked Utah team was nice, let's not get ahead of ourselves. The Irish themselves are unranked in the major polls and Sagarin has them at #37 versus USC's #19.
But, a lot of that is history. Notre Dame is playing its best football of the year. The defense in particular appears to have had an enormous light bulb turn on over its collective head. The challenge for the Irish this week will be to take its high level of play into the Coliseum against a team with athleticism which is a significant cut above that of Utah and Army. The Irish defense was clearly faster, stronger, more athletic than the skill players of Utah and Army. How will they match up against the 4- and 5-star players of USC, even if they are playing with the same focus and discipline? The Notre Dame defensive line dominated the past two games. Can they dominate the USC offensive front?
Notre Dame's backups - at QB, receiver, tight end, running back - were able to outplay the starters for Utah and Army. Can our backups outplay USC's starters?
I think it will be a close game. Our spread O against a USC defense that has been out of sorts this year. USC's dynamic offense against an improving D that has been gashed at times. It may well come down to whether Matt Barkley is able to play. If we can put the Trojans in the same position we are of playing back-up QB, I like our chances. Our back-up quarterback is better than your back-up quarterback!
Bottom line: I like the momentum and mental toughness of the Irish. USC is feeling a bit besieged right now. The streak ends Saturday, as the Irish beat the Trojans 27-24.
2. It is almost time for the OC Domer Player of the Year to be named. This award is intended to recognize the Notre Dame football player or players who played the best when it mattered the most. Suffice it to say that the primary criterion is a consistently high level of play, with significant bonus points awarded for exceeding expectations. Injuries have taken many of the pre-season favorites for this prestigious award out of the running. Who is your nominee for this award, and why?
Well, there is still a chance for a star to emerge against USC and take the prize. And I am very interested to see who the other bloggers nominate. But the obvious candidates for me are Manti Te'o, Chris Stewart, and Tommy Rees. Manti has been a tackling machine and is a rising superstar at the national level. Chris Stewart is just an amazing story of character and perseverance. And freshman back-up Tommy Rees has been remarkable off the bench so far.
3. With a delicate flavor similar to beef, though slightly sweeter than other meats, horse meat can be used to replace beef, pork, mutton, and any other meat in virtually any recipe, though most aficionados prefer it in marinated or spicy dishes. Nutritionally, horse meat has around 40 percent fewer calories than the leanest beef, while supplying 50 percent more protein and as much as 30 percent more iron; and horse fat is considered an excellent health-conscious deep-frying alternative, especially for delicately-flavored foods that are easily overpowered by heavier oils. What is your favorite horse meat recipe?
This simple French classic serves 4.
4 four-ounce filets of horse
4 slices bacon
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare exactly as for a filet mignon. Wrap outside of filet with uncooked bacon slice and secure with toothpicks. Broil to taste.
4. Do you miss Pat Haden, who left the Notre Dame television broadcasts to become athletic director at USC?
Absolutely not! It was always a little weird that Notre Dame had a USC guy on its T.V. broadcasts, although I always thought Haden did a good job. But I have been blown away by his replacement in the booth, Mike Mayock. Mayock is outstanding in analyzing the X's and O's, as well as in relating his stories and his impressions of the student-athletes involved in the games.
As an aside, I think Haden was an excellent hire to replace Mike Garrett as USC's A.D.
5. USC is the Notre Dame rival I love to hate. What Notre Dame rival do you most despise, and why?
As noted above, USC is villain #1 in the OC Domer household. It started with watching Anthony Davis and that damn horse gallop all over the field against Notre Dame. Living amongst the Trojan faithful the past several years hasn't helped things. The contrast between flashy, west coast, Hollywood USC and wholesome midwestern values Notre Dame is just so stark for me. It's a clash between two different cultures.
6. Reggie Bush got a car, his parents a house. Cam Newton's Dad was looking for $180,000 in straight cash homey. Can Notre Dame compete for athletic recruits in this environment? Or do you believe these incidents are the exceptions to an otherwise clean recruiting landscape?
I think this type of stuff happens more than I would really care to admit to myself. But I still think there are enough kids of good character who are going to college for the right reasons that the Irish can field a strong football team. I do think, however, that in some parts of the country (cough *SEC* cough) the motto is still "If you ain't cheatin' you ain't tryin'." That's why the sanctions against USC and a strong NCAA response to the Cam Newton situation is so important.
As the other members of the IBG post their responses I will put links to those posts below.
The Domer Law Blog post is here.
We Never Graduate chimes in with some Gary Gray love and USC Hate.
Subway Domer goes on the record, in his own inimitable style.
Frank V. of UHND.com has some love for the Irish secondary.
Go Irish! Beat Trojans!