When someone asks any USC fan what team currently has the most celebrated and fiercest college football rivalry with the Trojans, inevitably the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will ascend to the top spot.
Although there is no question that the University of Southern California's crosstown foes, the UCLA Bruins, are rivals in every sport -- in football, it is clearly the Notre Dame game that gets fans worked into a frenzy. USC and UCLA compete in every collegiate sport against one another each year for a trophy known as the Gauntlet. The winner is the school with the most points at the end of the school year, and is usually decided by spring sports such as track and baseball. UCLA is widely known as one of the greatest basketball programs in NCAA history, while USC is regarded as one of the top football programs in history. UCLA has only won one national championship in football, and that was in 1954. This makes the USC and UCLA rivalry transcend the football season, and reduces the annual rivalry game to just another sport in the quest for the Gauntlet Trophy.
Football, however, is a different story for USC when it comes to the annual rivalry game against Notre Dame. The team who wins the game takes home the Jeweled Shillelagh, which is then encrusted with either a ruby or an emerald in the shape of either a Trojan head or a shamrock, depending on which team wins. For fans of both teams, winning the Shillelagh each year ranks right up there with poll rankings and bowl selection -- and, in fact, all those achievements are deeply intertwined. The rivalry game is a crucial victory for either team to reach national title contention, and the loser in any given year is almost certainly relegated to also-ran status.
USC and Notre Dame are tied for the most Heisman Trophies, and each school has won 11 national championships, although the two have yet to ever face each other in a bowl game. USC has dominated the rivalry since 2002, and has only allowed Notre Dame a paltry four wins since 1996.
The top 25 reasons to dislike Notre Dame football:
1: Mascot: Notre Dame is French, but its mascot is the Fighting Irish. It doesn't make any sense.
2: Conference: The Irish refuse to join a conference, which means they get to keep all the money from their football program and not have to split it with other teams. Greedy and arrogant.
3: Stadium: They have a huge mural of Jesus Christ holding his arms up like a referee signaling a touchdown, which is visible at one end of the stadium behind an endzone. The mural is known as the "Word of Life," but Notre Dame actually refers to it as "Touchdown Jesus." Shockingly arrogant.
4: Helmets: This school actually paints real 24 karat gold on its football helmets before each game. Seriously, tough-football-player ornaments.
5: BCS Deal: Notre Dame is only non-conference school that gets an automatic qualification for a BCS playoff bowl if it is ranked in the top eight in the polls. All other automatic-qualifiers have to be BCS conference schools.
6: Television Contract: They get national coverage of home games on NBC and make tens of millions off of the deal all for itself.
7: Poll Rankings: Notre Dame is almost always way overrated because pollsters seem to love it . As a USC fan, I don't mind this, because the Trojans get credit for beating a team that's ranked higher than it should be. It's still a reason to dislike ND.
8: Leprechaun: Most game-day spirit mascots are either fearsome, respectable, or kinda fun and silly. Notre Dame's leprechaun is flat out annoying and a pest .
9: Fans: Always say ND is going to "return To glory," although the Irish never do, and it is unclear when the glory era was. Leather helmets era?
10: Athletic Department: Fired Ty Willingham and couldn't land Urban Meyer, so they settled for Charlie Weis. Florida wins two titles, and ND wins the Hawaii Bowl.
11: Coaches: Lou Holtz looks like a real-life version of the Fighting Irish mascot, and you know he was salivating for all those victories at ND.
13: Coaches: ND firing Ty Willingham increased USC's easy victory total by one game for each season he coached Washington Huskies.
14: Players: Joe Theismann, most annoying color analyst ever.
15: Players: Brady Quinn, professional clipboard holder.
16: Players: Jimmy Clausen -- bad attitude, plunged in the draft, and Sanchez was better.
17: Coaches: Gerry Faust had the Irish change into green uniforms at halftime in 1983? Really?
19: Bowl Record: ND has only won two bowl games out the last 12 played since 1994.
20: Performance: What part of Notre Dame's two decades of mediocrity lends itself to the saying "Luck of the Irish"?
21: Motto: When was the last time Notre Dame honestly lived up to "Play Like A Champion Today"?
22: Shady Tactics: Growing the grass ankle-deep to try to slow down USC in 2005.
24: Losers: Notre Dame lost a home game to USC 38-0 in 2007. Mark Sanchez threw for four touchdowns.
25: Quitters: Both Matt Barkley and Chris Galippo said Notre Dame "quit" halfway through the fourth quarter in the 2011 game against USC. Galippo summed up Notre Dame perfectly when he said, "And that's what Notre Dame football's about. They're not anything like USC."
Steven Holmes is a Los Angeles resident and season ticket holder for the USC Trojans.
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