Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Notre Dame and USC Went in Opposite Directions in 2012
If you told college football fans before the season that when Notre Dame and USC play each other at the end of the year that one of them would be ranked #1 and in a position to clinch a spot in the BCS title game but the other team would have had a disappointing season and likely headed to some second tier bowl game that means nothing, I don't think anybody would argue.
After all, when the year started one team was ranked #1 and the other was unranked and not expected to finish better than 8-4 with their schedule. I have to be honest. Going into the season, I saw a sechedule with teams like Michigan, Michigan State, Miami, Stanford, BYU, Oklahoma, and ultimately USC. I also was thinking of the off season turmoil with suspensions and arrests involving Tommy Rees and Cierre Wood among others. They were also starting red shirt freshman Everett Golson at quarterback. I was thinking that an 8-4 year would be an accomplishment.
Meanwhile, USC fans were excited for the start of the season. Matt Barkley was returning for his senior season and was prepared to light it up with the weapons he had around him. His receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are as good of pair as there is. USC also had senior Curtis McNeal returning at running back and Penn State transfer Silas Redd was to join him. The defense under the guidance of defensive guru Monte Kiffin was to be tough again.
Therefore, nobody would argue if I told them this game would be between the #1 ranked team in the country and a mediocre one headed to a non-meaningful bowl. However if I told them that it would be Notre Dame ranked #1, they would have called me crazy and delusional. But here we are.
Nobody knew that Notre Dame's defense led by Manti Te'o would be as dominant as it has been. Nobody knew that Golson would progress the way he has. Nobody expected Rees to be the best back up in the country and contribute the way he has.
Nobody expected USC's defense to struggle the way they have. If you look at the players on both defenses, the talent level is similar. The difference is that Notre Dame tackles well and USC has been sloppy. It comes down to fundamentals. USC has also been hurt with depth due to loss of scholarships. Although Barkley and company have for the most part put up good numbers, they actually appeared to get worse as opposed to better. They were also sloppy with turnovers and missed blocks. Notre Dame on the other limited their turnovers. Again it comes down to fundamentals.
Going into this game Barkley is out with a shoulder injury and red shirt freshman Max Wittek, who must be related to Rex Ryan, ran his mouth and guaranteed victory. Did he really think Te'o and company needed more motivation to come after him?