At one time the USC vs Notre Dame game was one of the biggest games of the year in college football. Unfortunately, in the past 20 years it has often been the case that only one of these two teams is at the top of their game when they clash during the regular season. There have not been many top 10 match ups in recent years. Even when the game is competitive one team usually comes in ranked significantly higher than the other. The same will happen in 2013. In fact, this game will likely get overshadowed by an ACC game. Who would have ever guessed the ACC would rule the primetime ratings of this week’s Saturday slate? Trust me when I tell you many more people are going to be interested in Clemson vs Florida State than USC vs Notre Dame.
USC and the Lane Kiffin Debacle
The Lane Kiffin era did not last very long at USC. After Pete Carroll abruptly left the program to head to the NFL the Trojans felt as if they could replace Carroll with one of his disciples and have the same success. They did not have a problem luring Lane Kiffin away from the University of Tennessee, but it did not work out as planned for either party. Lane Kiffin came in with huge expectations but one issue after another made it difficult for him to lead the Trojans back to national championship status. As soon as Kiffin arrived on campus USC was under investigation. After getting stripped scholarships most USC fans were willing to give Kiffin a few extra years to turn it around.
Whether or not he should have been given these extra few years is an argument for another time. What we know now is that Lane Kiffin was not the man for the job at USC. He was an amazing recruiter but he was not a great coach. I think I saw the writing on the wall very early when Kiffin would go for a two point conversation after about half of his team’s touchdowns. There is absolutely no reason to do this at a big time football program. This is the type of stuff small schools do just to try to get attention. Lane Kiffin was acting immature and that does not lead to success as a Division I college football coach.
USC decided to let Lane Kiffin go earlier this year and it should have happen. Some would argue that it should have happened sooner. Even though USC was hampered by scholarships being reduced they were never the team that lived up to their talent. Year in and year out the team was in the preseason top 25. By the time the season ended they were lucky to finish in the upper half of the Pac 12 conference. Two years ago the Trojans finished the season strong and they were preseason top five last year. That didn’t last long as Matt Barkley actually got worse during his senior season. This was all I needed to know to make my final decision about Lane Kiffin.
Is Notre Dame Back?
Last year many people thought Notre Dame might be back to their championship ways when they finished the season undefeated. So many people were excited about the BCS National Championship game against Alabama that it was one of the highest selling tickets in the history of the BCS. As we got closer to the national championship game more people began to recognize that Notre Dame did not match up well with the Alabama team that had won two of the last three national championship. Some experts were even predicting a blow out in the national championship game. When all was said and done it was exactly that. About 10 minutes into the game it was quite obvious that Alabama was in a class of its own. They were not going to be challenged by Notre Dame in any way.
Does this mean Notre Dame is not back? Well, maybe or maybe not. Brian Kelly has only been at Notre Dame a handful of years and he is still building the program. Seeing Notre Dame in the top 25 is nice as a college football historian. Unfortunately, Notre Dame fans are not happy with a team that is just in the top 25. They want their team competing for a national championship every year. I honestly don’t think that is going to be possible as the landscape of college football has changed drastically. It is no longer the case that high school football players only see games on NBC, ABC and CBS. In the past, this was the way Penn State, Notre Dame and USC recruited. They were the only teams that were on TV every single weekend. With ESPN and Fox Sports now airing games all day on Saturday high school football players can watch any team play from the comfort of their home.
Growing Up a Notre Dame Fan
I am in my early 30s and I grew up in a very small town. While we did get ESPN we did not get other sports channels. On a Saturday afternoon in the fall I had the option to watch NBC, which always had Notre Dame games. The local ABC and CBS stations had games in the ACC but ACC football has never been great. This meant that I watched Notre Dame week in and week out. I eventually became I diehard fan as I could name all the players on the team. Names like Kevin McDougal, Jerome Bettis and Lee Becton come to mind. With NBC paying millions for these broadcasts it stands to reason they would push the Fighting Irish as much as possible. During my younger years Notre Dame only won a single national championship and that was in 1989. After that they were in the top 10 every single year and challenged for a title.
The change happened when Lou Holtz decided to leave Notre Dame. The coach after Holtz was Bob Davie and it was a steady slide through the Davie years. NBC and Notre Dame still have a very strong relationship but there are so many options for college football fans. At the moment I can watch ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNews, Fox Sports, Fox Sports 1, the Pac 12 Network, the B1G Network and all the local affiliates. At 3:30 pm on a Saturday there are about seven or eight games that fans have the opportunity to watch. When I was growing up I had the opportunity to watch two or three and one was always Notre Dame.
It is also important to point out that regional games dominated in my younger years. If I wanted to watch Oregon or Texas A&M I was out of luck. We would have to order a special package and it was just too much for my parents to afford. Rather than getting upset about not seeing these teams play I simply let it go and knew nothing about them. I did not have the Internet at the time. The only way I could get score updates was to wait for Sportscenter at the end of the night. This was a time when there were not daily sports shows dedicated to the college football updates.
With so many options available it is obvious that high school football players and athletes do not have to watch only one team. There are dozens of games on every weekend and sports fans can use the Internet to get updates at any time during the day. Finding out insider information in the early to mid 1990s was nearly impossible. Unless you knew someone walking around the campus you had no idea what was going on behind closed doors. Now, every single program has a specific website dedicated to recruiting and analysis of the team.
Ratings for 2013 USC vs Notre Dame
The USC vs Notre Dame game will kick off at 7:30 pm on Saturday, October 19th. As mentioned previously, the Florida State vs Clemson game will likely be much more widely viewed. If all things work out the Clemson vs Florida State game will be a top 5 matchup while the Notre Dame vs USC matchup will feature a team that has recently fired their head coach and another team that is trying to find its identity as a program. I am a diehard college football fan and I love tradition. I would throughly enjoy watching this game if it actually mattered. Notre Dame will not be playing for a championship this year and USC will be playing for a mid level bowl. This makes the game unappealing to me as a fan.
I also have the opportunity to watch two of the best quarterbacks in college football in Tajh Boyd and Jameis Winston in the Clemson vs Florida State game. This is not a difficult decision at all. Also, the geographic differences in Notre Dame and USC make it unappealing. Neither is in the south and neither is in the hotbed of recruiting. These are just a few of the many reasons the TV ratings for the USC vs Notre Dame game will be subpar.