Welcome, welcome, welcome, to the final regular season Anti-Preview of 2010. It's U$C week and it couldn't come at a better time this season. Seriously, I just said that. This is the game that Brian Kelly and the Fighting Irish have unofficially been working towards all season. And, to be quite honest with you, it is probably safe to say that Notre Dame needed the type of season it has had to set itself up in the best way to face $outhern Cal.
Does that sound crazy? We needed 5 losses to have our best chance to beat U$C? Well, yeah. It wasn't the number of losses that is important, it is how this team has evolved in spite of everything that has happened around them during the season. The injuries and the heartbreaking losses, combined with some truly awful off the field tragedies, has bound this collection of players into a team and into a hungry team, ready for a true taste of success.
Not only is this game important for the Fighting Irish in terms of perception, growth, and finally excorcising some of the demons that have kept this program in the dark ages for well over a decade, but it will have a big effect on what bowl game the Irish go to in the postseason. If the irish win, they will go to the Champs Sport Bowl, and if they lose the game; it will get real interesting to watch the jockying of positions with the bowls to see where they will line up. There is a line of thought that either way, the Irish could face either Florida State or Miami in either the Champs Sports Bowl or the Sun Bowl.
On Saturday night, the Irish will put their faith into a freshman quarterback to help them beat the Trojans on their homefield for the first time since 2000. The quarterback for that game was a freshman, Matt LoVecchio. I remember that game, and how well Matt managed the game for Notre Dame. Can Tommy Rees do the same against what has been a struggling U$C defensive unit?
Well, on to the Anti-Preview as we face those fucking asslickers...
U$C.There is no getting around some facts when it comes to the Trojans. Their offense is really good, and has the ability to make a lot of explosive plays turn into points very quickly. Their defense is has regressed dramatically from what we as Irish fans have come to know from the Pete Carroll era.
The U$C offense has had a balanced attack with a passing game that throws for a little over 250 yards a game, and a rushing game that averages almost 200 yards a game, while scoring over 32 points a game. The ball gets spread around pretty well whether they run or throw, and players such as Tyler, Bradford, Woods, Johnson, and Havili are all used with deadly efficiency. Basically, they feed the ball to the hot hand.
What is almost certain, but not official yet, is that we may not see Matt Barkley play for the Trojans against Notre Dame after he suffered a high ankle sprain in U$C's loss to Oregon State. Instead, it will probably be Mitch Mustain behind the center for U$C. Mustain is a significant dropoff from Barkley, but he is still talented enough to become very dangerous once he gets some confidence- the key is to take his confidence early and often with pressure and turnovers.
I won't call U$C's defense a mess, but they are playing nowhere near to the level that they have been accustomed to over the past decade. They rank somewhere around #80 nationally in total defense, and are giving up over 28 points a game, which puts them at #78 in the country. The change to Monte Kiffin'sTampa 2 has not been a smoothtransition, to say the least, and I think it has neutralized what was a strength of this team withtheir linebackers being forced to drop back into deep coverage and are not nearly as aggressive, or physical up front.
As much as we can say that this is not a Pete Carroll type of U$C team, we still can definitively say that they aren't that good either. U$C could go one of two ways as they line up against the Irish. They could lay down and die, or they could man up and play this game like it's their bowl game. No matter what way they go, it will not surprise me. Is this the team that played Stanford tough, or is this the team that just got manhandled by Oregon State? Both of those games were losses, BTW.
What should you be drinking? For over 30 years, there is one game in this rivalry that has stood out because of its dramatic tale of green jerseys, and a Trojan Horse. Pay homage this week, not to the green jerseys, but to a time when U$C fell for the oldest trick in the book:
The Trojan Horse
- 1/2 pint of Guinness
- 1/2 pint of Coca-Cola
Pour the Guinness into a pint glass first, and then pour in the Coke. Drink. Enjoy. Grab a walking stick.
What should you be eating?WithThanksgiving now behind us, there still lurks a myriad of leftovers in refrigerators across the country. For me, there is nothing better than a leftover turkey sandwich smothered in my homemade cranberry sauce. However, I think we need to give it a little bit of a twist this year:
Turkey, Cranberry, And Fontina Panini
- 8 slices whole-grain bread
- 6 ounces thinly sliced Fontina cheese
- 8 ounces sliced leftover turkey
- 1/2 cup leftover cranberry sauce
- 1 cup arugula leaves Extra-virgin olive oil
For each sandwich, lay 2 slices bread on a work surface. Lay about 3/4 ounce cheese on one slice of the bread; top with 2 ounces turkey meat, 2 tablespoons cranberry sauce, about 5-6 arugula leaves and an additional 3/4 ounce cheese. Top with the other bread slice (there should be cheese next to each bread slice). Repeat with remaining ingredients.
Brush the top of the sandwich with olive oil; heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Put the sandwich, oiled-side down, into the pan, place a small heavy pan, or aluminum foil-wrapped brick on top of the sandwich to press it down. Cook until bread is golden and crisp and cheese is beginning to melt, about 5 minutes. Remove the heavy pan or brick, brush the top of the sandwich with oil and carefully flip it. Put the heavy pan or brick back on top of the sandwich and continue cooking until bottom bread slice is browned and crisp, cheese is melted, and sandwich is heated through, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the pan and cover to keep warm while cooking the remaining sandwiches.
To serve, slice each sandwich on the diagonal and serve warm.
Irish Stew: There is something to be very proud about this week, Irish fans- in fact... two things.
You should be proud of... you. This week, Irish fans took to the internet and to the phone lines in a furious cause to get the Notre Dame vs. U$C game to air on their local TV stations. In places like Pittsburgh, Boston, New York City, and Washington DC, to name a few, ABC was going to air the Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State game. It called for a resounding, WHAT THE FUCK?!!!It was hard to imagine ABC keeping the game away from a place like NYC, where the Irish have a tremendous amount of support and just hosted a wildly successful game in Yankee Stadium. Your voices were heard, and the powers that be were forced to bend to your will. Congratulations.
There is also someone who deserves a pat on the back for facing stupidity at its finest. I am from Ohio, and this story does not surprise me in the least as it comes from Toledo- which is basically Michigan to the rest of us. The following is an email that I received from a Subway Domerreader, and I am sure most of you have already heard the story, but it is worth mentioning once again:
Today is "Spirit Day" at Waite High School, a fun day for kids to support Ohio State or Michigan. For one student and her family, it was anything but fun, as she was threatened with suspension.
Lacy Cornett is a Notre Dame fan. Her father, Charles Cornett, says he was outraged when he learned the assistant principle at Waite High School tried to punish his daughter for wearing a Notre Dame t-shirt.
"I don't agree with them making somebody that doesn't like Ohio State or Michigan take off a shirt because they want to support their team," he said.
Students were told they could wear Ohio State or Michigan gear to school for Spirit Day or follow the district-wide dress code.
14-year-old Lacy says she doesn't like either team but loves Notre Dame, so she wore her Irish t-shirt. She says the assistant principal stopped her in the hallway and ordered her to take it off. She refused.
"I told her, if she has a problem, she should call my parents, and she wrote me up and sent me to the dean," says Lacy.
Lacy's father came to school. He says school administrators gave his daughter two options: take off the shirt or spend the day in in-school suspension.
The freshman decided to go home. Her father said he supports her decision. "I back her. I'm 100 percent behind her that she has the right to support her team."
(Copyright ©2010 WTVG-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.) http://abclocal.go.com/wtvg/story?section=news/local&id=7808487
What this story does not mention is that many teachers wore Univ of Toledo or BG shirts to support them. Students also were spotted wearing Pittsburgh Steelers and SanFran 49ers shirts and they were not punished. I may be biased because she is my niece but this reeks.
Thanks to Kris, for emailing this to me. Keep up the fight!
What's in a name?Usually this spot is reserved for the unusual or funny. However, this week it is used for the commonness and familiarity to Irish fans. Fullback Stanely Havili is still a Trojan. He was granted a 6th year of eligibility, and even 6 years seems like it has been 10. This guy will not go away. I bet he gets a 7th year of eligibility granted on the grounds that it is unfair to him to have to play a season where he can't go to a bowl game. In all seriousness, Havili is as dangerous a weapon as the Trojans have. I wish he would just go away.
Offensive MVP:Michael Floyd. It is hard to imagine that perhaps the best offensive weapon that the Irish have had in the past 3 years has not played a single snap against the Trojans. How in the world was that game last year even close? It could be said, that had Michael Floyd played in last years game, the only U$C streak we would be talking about, would be the losing streak to the Trojans out in LA.
Michael Floyd presents a big matchup problem for the Trojans, and he is probably the best wide receiver they have faced all season. Notre Dame should not try to force the ball to Floyd on the outside, but they must make certain that he is used vertically. That, in effect, will help open up the rest of the passing game. There will probably be 4-5 opportunities to "throw it up" to the Irish wideout, and Notre Dame must do so.
No matter if Floyd catches the ball 8 times for 156 yards and 2 TD's or if he only catches the ball 5 times for 68 yards, he will be the key in the passing game. My bet is on the former, and he should cement himself as one of the all-time Irish greats at WR, if he hasn't done that already.
Defensive MVP: Harrison Smith. Seriously. Not Manti Te'o? No. Not even if I break my Manti Te'orule again. Harrison Smith is a guy that has been crucified by the Irish fanbase for far too long. A guy that has given 110% of his heart and body for the Irish. A guy that has finally had a season where he is able to play one position- the one that he was recruited to play.
U$C runs a pro-style type of offense and we need a pro-style type of safety play to slow them down. Smith has the ability to be that ball-hawking safety playing zone to make the QB think twice before throwing the ball deep, and he hits hard enough to have WR's hearing footsteps as they come across the middle.
As long as Smith trusts his front 7 against the run, and doesn't get sucked in on the play-action, I honestly believe we could witness one of his finest games in a Notre Dame uniform. I am putting a lot on the kid, but he has proved himself over the course of the season, and if he had never played a down prior to 2010, he could be consideredone of 2 guys that I would put up for the defensive MVP of the season award for the Irish. With a few plays, he could take that lead.
Something else to watch for on Saturday night: David Ruffer. In my heart of hearts, I honestly think that this game will be a close game- maybe even VERY low scoring. In those type of games, you need great special teams, and perhaps most importantly; you need points from your kicker. David Ruffer has proved himself to be one of the nations best kickers, if not the best. This could finally be the game that he gets his chance for a game winning FG. I hope it doesn't come down to that, but even if it doesn't his points will be the difference. He stays perfect on his way to winning some hardware.
Is there a rivalry trophy on the line? You bet your sweet ass that there is...
The Jeweled Shillelagh is the hardware given to the winner of the annual contest of the Trojans and The Fighting Irish. Legend states that Howard Hughes' pilot brought this Gaelic Warclub, made of blackthorn oak, over from Ireland in 1952. The Notre Dame Alumni Club of Los Angeles created the award.
The winner of the contest is awarded the trophy with a new medallion to mark the victor. ND has emerald shamrocks while USC has ruby encrusted Trojan heads. Although the trophy was created in 1952, the entire series is recorded back to 1926. There have been 5 ties and those games are represented with a combo medallion. The original shillelagh was retired after the 1995 season. There was simply no more room for anymore shamrocks or heads.
It now resides at Notre Dame because the Irish won more games up to that point. (We still do even after losses for 8 straight seasons with a 42-34-5 mark). There is a new trophy that is a little longer than the original. It was purchased by Jim Gillis, a former baseball player for ND and USC. It is the same kind of oak and hails from the County Leitrim in Ireland. It was introduced in 1996.
At the end of the night... Notre Dame will show up to play a physical football game in Los Angeles. This is somehting that U$C will not be familiar with at all from the Irish. I think Mustain will play better than expected for the Trojans, but his lack of experience over the past few years will cause him to make some mistakes that the Irish will capitalize on. Look for David Ruffer to put all of ND Nation on his shoulders as Notre Dame wins a close game, 27-24.