This decade USC's dominance over Notre Dame has had a lot to do with who was under center. Since 2003 the Trojans have produced three current starters on NFL rosters, and two backups. Notre Dame have given the league Brady Quinn.
But for the first time in this era, there is no doubt which team has the better Quarterback. At this point in time Jimmy Clausen is light years ahead of Matt Barkley. Notre Dame's offense is also better than USC's for the first time this rivalry.
I guess that's what happen when you're able to recruit "the kid with the golden arm."
Although Notre Dame have the offensive edge, USC still have the size, the depth, and the defense to make Notre Dame struggle. And I don't want to jump on the Charlie Weis pile on, so let's just say USC have the head coaching advantage here, too.
Neither the Trojans (4-1) or the Irish (4-1) have looked like competition for Florida, Alabama, or even Texas, this year, but this is still the most exciting rivalry on a national level right now. It's also Notre Dame's best shot to get a win with Weiss, a win that may be essential to Weis keeping his job.
Unless Jimmy Clausen stays for senior season, Notre Dame will likely reenter a one to two year rebuilding phase, beginning next year. This is USC's rebuilding. After this season Barkley is a veteran at the college level and USC will once again be national title contenders.
A lot is on the line this week for the Irish. Clausen staying for Senior year is part of it. A win, and national title hopes for 2010, or even this year, begin to emerge. A loss, and Clausen may take the money and run; especially after what happened to Sam Bradford.
Charlie Weis' job is also on the line. Boosters are tired of his act. A loss this Saturday, and Weis may return to Belichick's side in 2010 the way Belichick returned to Parcell's in 1996, and Weis doesn't want that, he may not even be given that sort of opportunity. Weis' collapse in Notre Dame is a lot worse than Belichick's inability to turn Vinny Testaverde into a Pro Bowler (although Testaverde did in 1996, Belichick's first year gone, and 1998, as a Jet with Belichick as defensive coordinator; no need for a Belichick as the reason Testaverde didn't succeed debate though... after all Belichick turned Brady into a Hall of Famer, and Cassell into a millionaire).
Here's the bottom line. Notre Dame are home. Both teams are coming off a bye, both teams BCS hopes are on the line. A win will mean the world for both programs, a loss will go a long way in sending each program backwards. But in college football, nine times out of ten you gotta go with the team with more talent winning the game.
This time the team with more talent is USC.
I hate to say it but the Trojans are going to go into South Bend and win 34 - 21.
Maybe Weis can catch on with Mangini in Cleveland and help develop Brady Quinn. If not I'm sure Big Bill has something for him to do in Miami. If that fails little Bill probably has something in New England. If that fails he and Romeo can co-coach a UFL team.
If that fails there's always pie eating contests. (Damn I said I wouldn't join in the pile on).
If Notre Dame win, Clausen wins the Heisman.