USC-Notre Dame: Could Irish Fans Plan Save Charlie Weis’ Job?


Well, the big game is finally upon us, and when the USC Trojans take the field in South Bend to meet the Notre Dame fighting Irish, it will mark the 81st time these two storied programs will meet on the gridiron.

Along with their game plans, both teams will also take the fervent hopes of their passionate fans with them when the whistle blows to start the game.

USC, ranked sixth in most polls, will meet a Jimmy Clausen led Notre Dame team that has re-entered the AP and Coaches poll at number 25.

Both the Trojans and the fighting Irish are coming off bye weeks and oddsmakers have installed USC as an early eight point favorite.

An interesting side show to this classic is the impact a win or loss will have on the status of beleaguered Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis.

To be certain, coach Weis could REALLY use a victory over USC.

So fans of the fighting Irish have offered their best plan for Notre Dame to finally break the eight year winning streak by the Trojans.

However, judging by the comments I have received from the Notre Dame faithful there is also an underlying theme that best can be described as one of dread.

The many examples of the sophisticated and reasoned analysis I have been privileged to receive from these dedicated fans of the fighting Irish seem to all be tempered with the caveat, “It is going to be very difficult to beat USC, but, if we are to do it, it has to be…”

Then they finish with:

“done by outscoring the Trojans in a high scoring game.”

Because these Notre Dame fans are rooted in reality, they understand that there is a good possibility that a seasoned USC offense, led by a re-energized running game and featuring a very talented freshman quarterback, Matt Barkley, who gets better by the week, may run rough shod over a fighting Irish defense that has given up yards and points in large chunks.

So these fine Notre Dame fans suggest that an Irish victory might be best engineered in a shootout.

In some ways, this makes sense.

Jimmy Clausen, the Irish quarterback is having a marvelous season throwing the ball all over the field to talented receivers Golden Tate and tight end Kyle Rudolph amongst others.

To be sure, Jimmy Clausen will be one of the very finest quarterbacks the Trojans will face all season.

To compliment the Irish passing game, Notre Dame will welcome back a healthy Armando Allen and his tough fullback, Jame Aldridge.

Allen is a very good running back and Aldridge will be playing on Sundays some day.

This offense, which has engineered several late game comebacks this season, is talented, fast and precise.

Which bode well for those Notre Dame fans who extol the virtues of simply outscoring the Trojans.

Except there is a problem.

USC’s defense is…well…scary good.

Despite nine new starters replacing six drafted players by the NFL, the Trojans haven’t missed a beat defensively.

Regardless of replacing four linebackers who all were drafted in the first four rounds, the Trojans simply shrug and say, “next.”

And in the 2009 version of the Trojan defense, “next” means a leaner, faster, yet just as nasty trio of linebackers.

Chris Galippo, Michael Morgan and Malcolm Smith (who the Trojans will be welcoming back after missing two games with a sprained ankle) while not as physical as last years linebackers, are noticeably faster.

And just as tenacious.

Meanwhile, the Trojans defensive line, featuring Nick Perry, the PAC-10 sack leader and Everson Griiffen, the freakishly fast and athletic defensive end, lead the nation in sacks per game.

Oh, and they are top five nationally in yards per rush allowed.

Hold on you say, what about the Trojans defensive backfield? Is this where Jimmy Clausen and his talented receivers break through?

Probably not.

Taylor Mays, USC’s all everything safety who runs a 4.25 forty and at 6’3″, 235 pounds, simply crushes everyone who has the temerity to enter his territory.

Will Harris, Mays partner at safety, lays the wood with the same ferocity.

The corners, Kevin Thomas and Josh Pinkard, are fast and stick to opposing wide receivers like fly paper.

Just to set your mind at ease that this isn’t just a Trojan honk blowing smoke, the Sporting News had this unit ranked #1 in the country in the preseason and they have done nothing to refute this lofty praise.

So there it is.

The Trojan foil to the well reasoned, albeit hopeful, plan of the fighting Irish faithful.

The fly in the ointment to securing Charlie Weis’ continued employment at the legendary academic institution in South Bend.

Of course, coach Weis’ future may not hinge on a Notre Dame victory against the Trojans at all.

Maybe, he has shown enough progress that an upset of the Trojans would only be icing on the cake.

But if outscoring the Trojans is truly the game plan that Notre Dame intends to hang their hat on, I have a suggestion.

Find a new game plan.