The Irish will have to fight hard this week

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 14, 2005

If not for Notre Dame’s annual slip-up against Michigan State, the Renaissance-like renewal of Southern Cal and the Irish would easily be the game of the season.

Even with one Notre Dame loss, it’s still right near the top.

&uot;Renaissance&uot; is used because after years of one or both of these two legendary football programs being relatively down, the Irish are experiencing their Weis-led, Patriots-inspired rebirth at the same time that the Trojans are on the cusp of being included in the &uot;arguably (because it is forever arguably) greatest teams of all time&uot; list.

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Here’s some of the rest of Saturday’s televised action but South Bend is the deserved center of the college football universe for the first time in a long time.

First course – #16 Michigan St. (4-1) at #15 Ohio St. (3-2) (Noon – ABC)

Given how the Big Ten has gone all year, Penn State (at Michigan at 3:30) will assuredly lose their first game after gaining &uot;Conference Favorite&uot; status.

These two teams (actually everyone except Illinois) should consider themselves very much in the hunt.

Michigan State has more talent, is coming off a bye week, and Ohio State is coming off a loss in which their offense did less than nothing the whole second half.

This is an easy pick.

My pick – OSU 24, MSU 20

During commercials – Wake Forest (2-4) at #14 Boston College (5-1) (Noon – WGNT)

When the phrase, &uot;trap game&uot; is flung all over football broadcasts about 20 times per quarter, this is the type of game it should be reserved for.

Two Thursdays from now (BC’s next game) BC goes to Blacksburg.

If the Eagles were to upset the Hokies, they would suddenly be in better than 50-50 shape to make the ACC Championship game.

First up though a home game against lowly Wake Forest.

There’s a problem though, Wake Forest gave Florida State everything FSU’s homecoming crowd wanted for three and a half quarters.

BC got FSU up north in September, and their result was quite similar to Wake’s run at the ‘Noles in Tallahassee.

If Wake’s running game (17th in the nation in yardage) can keep the Deacons close, this could be a serious &uot;trap game&uot;.

My pick – Wake Forest 17, Boston College 14

Second course – #1 USC (5-0) at #9 Notre Dame (4-1) (3:30 – NBC)

For the talk surrounding Matt Leinart (as well it should), the Irish’s Brady Quinn has numbers practically identical to Leinart’s (Leinart – 1646 yards, 12 TD, 3 INT; Brady – 1621 yards, 13 TD, 3 INT).

However, with Leinart out of the equation, USC’s running game is tops in the nation (291 yards per game).

Even with Notre Dame’s great start to the season, three weeks ago no one would have given the Irish a chance.

Three weeks and three Trojan second half rallies later, it would be a disappointment if this was not at least a good game.

Despite the last three USC outings, &uot;struggling&uot; still means 38 points or more.

It’s up to the Notre Dame offense to keep up more than it is up to the Irish defense to be expected to stop Leinart, Reggie Bush, and all the other Trojans (most notably LenDale White) who would be Heisman candidates if only they played on teams not including Leinart and Bush.

Lots of folks want Notre Dame to win; NBC most of all as the Peacock is, for the first time since the mid 90’s, going to get everything they are paying for.

Vegas still has USC has a double-digit favorite, which is a mistaken sign of lingering disrespect to the Irish offense.

My pick – USC 41, Notre Dame 39

During commercials – #11 Florida (5-1) at #10 LSU (3-1) (3:30 – CBS)

Georgia, Auburn and Alabama remain the undefeated teams in the SEC.

Georgia and Alabama do not meet in the regular season, which makes it pretty likely that two conference losses by any other team puts them out of the running to make it to the SEC Championship.

The Gators and Tigers each have one SEC loss already, so this amounts to an SEC (and national title) elimination game.

Both teams beat Mississippi State by a lot.

Florida beat Tennessee in Florida, and LSU lost to Tennessee in Baton Rouge; those are the two common opponents.

The improbability of two consecutive LSU home losses outweighs Florida having bested Tennessee.

My pick – LSU 27, Florida 17

Last course – #8 (1-AA) Hampton (6-0) at Norfolk State (1-4) (7:00 – ESPNU)

I run the risk of sounding like a hypocrite, but actually, given the availability of ESPNU so far, the best chance to see this game is still to go over to NSU in person, so that’s the better suggestion anyway.

The Battle of the Bay is in its 43rd edition, but recently, the Pirates have plundered everything they’ve wanted in this battle.

The Spartans are getting better, but at the same time Hampton might very well be an improving team too (even with last year’s 10-2 record and this year’s top-ten ranking).

Both teams are averaging more than 30 points a game, and both teams have a stud running back (NSU – Terrell Johnson, 107 yards per game, HU – Alonzo Coleman, 114 ypg); but Hampton’s defense is the big difference.

By averaging 32 points per game, Hampton has outscored their opponents by almost 20 per game.

My pick – Hampton 42, Norfolk State 23

During commercials – #4 Florida St. (5-0) at Virginia (3-2) (7:45 – ESPN)

With three of their final six contests against FSU, Miami and Va. Tech, UVA is probably missing the ACC of old.

From a 3-0 start, the Cavaliers are now going to need one huge upset along the way in order to be anything more this season than &uot;bowl eligible&uot;.

A running game, and no more blatantly dirty cheap shots, would both help the Hoos’ out here; making Drew Weatherford revert back to his opening game form would be a big plus too.

The running game and late hits can possibly be done.

Last I checked though, the Miami defense is a lot better than UVA’s.

My pick – FSU 31, UVA 21

Last week: 5-1

For the year: 16-11