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Notre Dame Football: USC is a beautiful disaster.


noun | SHAH-dun-TROY-duh - Joy gained from the troubles of USC

Perhaps your parents taught you not to indulge in schadenfreude. Maybe your strict adherence to a Judaeo-Christian set of morality prevents you from delighting in others misery. You may be overwrought with a feeling of cosmic karma, leaving you terrified at the prospect of finding glee at another’s woe. This article is not for you. This is not for the Notre Dame fan with the misbegotten opinion that the Irish should get an opponent’s best shot. Nay, this is for those who utter, “you just hate to see it,” when a rival or future opponent is beset with bad luck or misfortune.

Now that we’ve weeded out the goody two-shoes and, let’s be real, the dupes, let’s get down to it shall we? What do you hope to see above all else when Notre Dame plays a football game? It’s a win right? There are those who espouse this notion that they just want to see a good game. Eff that. That’s such a soft take that cartoon bears wipe their ass with it, thinking it’s toilet paper. It’s all about winning the game, that is the only thing that will keep the hearth warm through the cold winter months. And what’s the only thing better than winning a game? Winning a game against a hated rival. Which is why we should revel in the calamitous position the arch-rival USC Trojans now find themselves.

Traveler is heading off a cliff and I’m here for it.

If you haven’t been following recruiting, let me bring you up to speed. USC is in the midst of a historically disastrous recruiting class. The Hindenburg photoshop in the lede? That might not truly do it justice. After early signing day, here is where the Trojans find themselves:

USC is behind actual Troy. TROY! What in the name of Helen’s right boob is happening in Trojan-land for them to be so utterly inept at recruiting? The fact USC is last in the Pac-12 among all teams in recruiting is pretty commonly spread information:

But it’s worse than that. Much worse. Here are some CHOICE nuggets that you can toss on your fireplace this Christmas to provide your home with warmth.

  • Notre Dame has more 5* signed that USC has 4*.
  • Of the 65 Power-Five schools, only Missouri has a worse class.
  • Six of the twelve AAC schools had better classes than USC.
  • Three MAC schools boast a better recruiting class.
  • The year that Tyrone Willingham took the recruiting season off to work on his short game, the Irish finished 39th with but two 4* and a class of 14.
  • They have signed only 11 recurits, one of which hilariously enough, is a kicker.
  • Over half the class is made up of offensive linemen. Of the six linemen, three aren’t even nationally ranked. They signed the 99th, 101st and 102nd ranked offensive tackles, for perspective, the 104th ranked is going to Georgia State.

I pulled the data on every USC Trojan recruiting class on record, since 2002, to give some further context:

USC Recruiting Since ’02

Year Ranking Commits 5 star 4 star 3 star
Year Ranking Commits 5 star 4 star 3 star
2002 8 21 1 9 11
2003 2 26 2 12 11
2004 2 18 6 8 3
2005 1 16 6 5 5
2006 1 26 6 10 10
2007 2 18 6 7 4
2008 4 19 2 12 5
2009 2 18 2 13 3
2010 3 19 4 12 2
2011 3 29 1 14 11
2012 8 17 1 11 5
2013 13 12 4 8 0
2014 10 26 2 8 11
2015 2 28 4 14 10
2016 10 21 2 12 7
2017 4 24 2 12 9
2018 4 18 4 13 1
2019 20 25 0 7 18
2020 79 11 0 1 10

It’s never been this bad. It’s never even come CLOSE to approaching levels of this bad. Remember that between 2010-2012, they were under NCAA sanctions and they still finished with the number 3, 3, and 8 class. Above I had mentioned the 2005 recruiting class where the Irish finished 39th, that class is made worse when you look at it in terms of a two year cycle. The 2004 Notre Dame recruiting class finished 35th, with just 16 kids and 2 four stars, so when you couple the 2004 and 2005 classes, that’s how you end up with the debacle of the 2007 season. That same lack of talent and depth is going to affect the Trojans in two years time. Their recruiting class before this one WAS their low point of the last twenty plus years, it had bodies but most were signed after early signing day, 18 of the players in that class were three star or lower. But it doesn’t stop there, USC in keeping Clay Helton, have set themselves up for a repeat on the recruiting trail for 2021. Every recruit knows that Helton is a dead man walking, who is going to commit to a staff that likely isn’t going to be place this time next year? USC might be looking at back to back irredeemable recruiting classes that could set the program back 4-5 years. Which at that point, we’re talking about a program that has legitimately been out of relevancy for over a decade. They’ll find themselves in a position very similar to Notre Dame was post Charlie Weis. Will they get a Brian Kelly? Who can say, that job looks more and more unattractive by the day. Speaking of Charlie Weis... Clay your roster construction...woof.

USC is heading into 2020 with a situation very familiar to Irish fans. The talented starting QB was knocked out with an injury and his incumbent came in relief and looked great. Does anyone have faith that Clay Helton is going to be able to manage that locker room with two QBs who expect to start? The loser of the QB battle between those two will/should likely transfer. That’s where the fun begins. Matt Fink, who looked like he was going to transfer to Illinois after spring ball last year, will be the only other scholarship quarterback on that roster. Trojan quarterbacks were get killed like their name was Hector and opponents were Achilles last year. Their offensive line gave up 24 sacks, 61st in the nation, which is quite a feat considering the offense they run. Of teams that run a variation of the Mike Leach air raid, only Texas A&M(in the SEC West) gave up more sacks that USC last year. USC is going to come out of spring camp as the favorite to win the PAC-12. There will be a considerable amount of hand ringing about their returning starters(18 or 19) and how they are the most talented team on the west coach. But none of this is new. They have an incredible group of wide receivers, they have Markese Stepp at running back and whoever wins the QB job will be talented. But this is a team that returns the same defense, minus their best edge rusher, that gave up almost 28 points per game. One that gave up 4.58 yards per carry, which was the 89th best in football last year, even worse in context given teams were throwing on them to the tune of 249 yards per game, 99th ranked in the nation. Oh and Clay is bringing the band back together, the whole staff was retained.

“Look at this coaching staff. Every time I do it makes me laugh.” -Nickelback

I make no apologies for taking delight in USC’s woes. The sign of a healthy rivalry is a heavy dose of schadenfreude, otherwise what’s the point? Next year’s game against USC is on November 28th to end the season. USC opens the year with a death bucket game against Alabama in Jerry’s World. They have games at Autzen Stadium and in the mountains of Utah at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Once again USC will either be playing Notre Dame with an interim coach or a coach going through the motions before his impending termination. And once again, I’ll be sitting back on my couch, with most sarcastic shit-eating grin on my face saying, “You just hate to see it.”