Notre Dame: The importance of this game
The importance of the Notre Dame/Southern Cal game over the years cannot be understated, both to the individual teams and college football as a whole. After last season's classic, the odds might be even higher this time around. If the Trojans win, then dispatch UCLA, they'll be facing off with the Buckeyes for a shot at their third championship in four years.
For the Irish, who might not have a chance at the title game thanks to 47-21, this game is probably more important. They've been written off the national radar since the Michigan game as an overrated-yet-not-rated-that-high squad that should have lost to Michigan State, UCLA and Georgia Tech. The Heisman is now out of Brady Quinn's grasp no matter what happens on Saturday thanks to the coronation bestowed upon Troy Smith.
This game might be even more important for Charlie Weis, who's inspired a confidence in the program it hadn't seen since the Holtz years yet lacks that big win. He's undefeated on the road and was a few seconds away from toppling the Trojan dynasty last season, but his best scalps are probably Georgia Tech this season and Michigan last. He's been obsessing about the Trojans, looking at every single play they've executed this season and using last week's practice to secretly run Southern Cal plays under the guise of Army formations to the team.
As far as championships and bowl bids go, this game doesn't mean a whole lot. Win, it's most likely the Sugar Bowl. Lose, the same, yet there's so much more hanging in the balance for the legacy of Brady Quinn and Charlie Weis. This is their final regular season game together, in primetime against the arch-nemesis of the Notre Dame program and one of the most celebrated teams of the millennium.
Pundits are saying the Irish don't have a chance, that the Jarrett/Smith combination is too powerful to deal with and that the speed of the Trojan defense will be an unstoppable swarm, eating Quinn and D-Walk alive. While the talent check mark may be on USC's side of the ledger, there's something to be said for a great gameplan and even better execution, which gave Notre Dame the lead in the closing minutes last year. Will Quinn be able to execute the perfect plan, forever engraving his name into the annals of this rivalry and giving his coach that big win he still lacks?
Irish fans are certainly hoping the answer to that question is yes come Saturday night.