Notre Dame football travels to Los Angeles for their 90th meeting with the Trojans of the USC, in perhaps College Football’s most under-appreciated rivalry.
When I was young, I was told that nuns prayed for USC to lose. When Notre Dame football plays the University of Southern California, they pray for double the length of time. This is why I was never to root for the Trojans: if I did, the nuns would be mad at me.
I didn’t want the nuns to be mad at me.
This was made easy. One of my early memories of the Notre Dame-USC series is the Reggie Bush push. It was proof that USC cheats, and when someone you’re told to dislike cheats, it is really easy to learn how to hate them.
And I hate them.
It is also very easy to learn to love the things about your team, that others may turn their noses to. For instance, when I first saw video of Notre Dame players coming into the Green Jersey Game with their Trojan Horse, I fell in love.
For me, everything was now simple and clear. Notre Dame was Catholic, a traditional winner, and knew how to joke. On the other hand, USC not only cheated, but had started to take on every negative quality I associate with Los Angeles. USC became a team synonymous with smog, traffic, divas, and a façade of beauty. They weren’t true beauty, like the golden domes of Notre Dame. They were front-runners.
So, I hate them. No Notre Dame game means more to me on an annual basis than USC. It is the rivalry that matters most to me.
So, it has always seemed odd to me that the Notre Dame-USC rivalry has always felt secondary to national pundits. Rivalries like the Iron Bowl or Michigan-Ohio State always seem to get the headline, and Notre Dame-USC gets less attention.
They’ve got everything all the other best rivalry games have. Having been played 89 times, the series started when Knute Rockne coached the Irish. There is also debate as to the exact reasoning for the start to the series. The two are perennial ten-win teams, and often have as good odds as anyone to be in line for a national championship. This isn’t a one-way series, where one team dominates. It’s closer than that. There is even a trophy for the winner.
What more could anyone want?
If Notre Dame-USC isn’t college football’s best rivalry, it is certainly the most underappreciated. So, you can have your Red River Rivalry. You can take your Apple Cup. Run away with your Holy War. Enjoy your Civil ConFLiCT. I’ll Stick with Notre Dame-USC. Go Irish.