Only five teams can claim to have an overall winning record against USC— Memphis (1-0-0), TCU (3-2-0), Kansas State (2-0-0), Florida (1-0-1), and, of course, Notre Dame (44-35-5). Notre Dame is the only team to have a winning record when playing more than five games against USC— and deservedly so.
Much like USC, Notre Dame has seven Heisman Trophy winners and 11 national championships. The Trojans and the Fighting Irish are number one and two, respectively, for producing the most NFL draft picks and tied for most former players selected as the top pick in the NFL draft. The series began with the first game in 1926, years before USC and UCLA started playing against each other.
Once again USC and Notre Dame are tied— this time with their 4-2 record going into their 85th meeting. They are both unranked at this point of the season after being ranked #1 in the AP poll at some point during the 2012 season. This would be only the 11th time that the two teams have come in to the matchup unranked. The last time this happened was in 2011— USC defeated Notre Dame handily in South Bend, leading to a #20 ranking in the updated poll. The game may not have as much luster without rankings, but the win— or loss— could have monumental implications for USC.
A win or a loss may not seem to mean much in the long term. National championships are not on the line like in decades past. The likelihood of fans looking back twenty or thirty years from now and saying, “Remember when the Trojans won/lost to the Irish in 2013?” would probably be low.
In the face of such a strong history, this game may be a blip on the radar, but it still has a long reaching effect. If the Trojans were to lose, it would start a losing streak. Compounded with the current coaching instability of the program, Notre Dame could go on another run like they did from 1983-1993— in a series that USC has never led in. The last time the series was tied was in 1933— the overall record was 4-4-0.
Before Notre Dame went on an 11-win streak, USC had brought a dismal overall record of 11-25-2 up to 23-27-4 in 1982. Younger Trojan fans of today look back at that, seeing the losses and how Notre Dame pulled ahead. The same could happen to future generations. They will wonder what happened to USC during those years. The players will look back in regret at what could have been. Recruits will also be swayed by seeing what happened.
The win would add another ruby to the Jeweled Shillelagh— another win to bring the Trojans closer to leading the series. It will take nine straight wins just to tie the series, so they’d better start now. By adding a win, these current USC players can write a little bit in the history books. Why stop there? They could make this a game to remember— one more memorable matchup in college football’s greatest intersectional rivalry. They could ride that momentum and make it another season to remember— much like 2011′s Trojan squad.
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