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USC Being Good Is Good For Notre Dame

If Lincoln Riley makes USC a top program again that makes life harder for Notre Dame, but that's a good thing

USC made some serious nose this weekend when it was able to pull Lincoln Riley away from Oklahoma. It sent shockwaves through the world of college football, and the ripple effect will continue as Oklahoma looks to replace him. It will certainly have a major impact on the recruiting trail, as we've seen with a number of Oklahoma's commits in the 2022 and 2023 classes already jumping ship.

It might seem crazy, but the move by USC to hire Riley away from the Sooners is actually very good thing for Notre Dame.

I know I know, you think I'm crazy, right? 

It's going to make recruiting on the West Coast harder is the first response, and you'd be correct.

It's going to make beating USC a lot tougher is the next response, and you'd be right about that as well.

But why are those things things? The answer is they aren't.

Think about this current season. Notre Dame fans were hoping and wishing for an 8-3 Wisconsin team to beat Minnesota and are praying that an 8-4 Purdue team can somehow crack the Top 25, all in hopes of making what is otherwise a pretty weak on paper resume good enough for the Irish to make the College Football Playoff.

I absolutely believe Notre Dame is right now one of the four best teams in the country, but the soft schedule, which includes the two best wins being over 4-loss Big Ten teams, means the Irish and their faithful head into championship weekend pulling or upsets.

If USC was USC and the Irish still beat them, which they should be able to do at home, we aren't having that conversation because Notre Dame would also have a win over a Top 10-15 USC team, if not a higher ranked USC team.

I have little doubt that Riley will make USC formidable again, and that should help Notre Dame.

USC becoming USC again means Brian Kelly has a legitimate national power on his schedule every single season, now in the form of the program's biggest rival. That's great for Kelly because it gives him a guaranteed opponent that can not only boost Notre Dame's resume when he wins, but also show the Irish program where it must get better, something we've only been able to see on the few occasions the Irish have been able to face Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State or Georgia in the last few years.

This is also true on the recruiting trail. Let's say, hypothetically, that Notre Dame has a position coach who does a lot of West Coast work, and he's benefitting from USC not being very good, which is making him more effective than his efforts otherwise would merit. The reason is Notre Dame is a perennial power and USC has been a dumpster fire for years. That coach will get recruits because of how well the Irish program is performing while taking advantage of USC, UCLA, Stanford and Washington all being down.

If Lincoln Riley restores USC to the status of at least being a consistent Top 10-15 team they will be much harder to beat on the West Coast. Impossible to beat? Absolutely not, just ask Charlie Weis and Mike Denbrock. Weis won plenty of West Coast battles against USC when Pete Carroll was there, but it was much harder.

That particular coach would be exposed as not being a good enough recruiter, which would force Kelly to either give up getting top players out West or to make a move to ensure his staff has dynamic coaches recruiting that part of the country.

That is very good for Notre Dame, because those types of assistant coaches will also be able to go into the Southwest and battle against Texas and Texas A&M and be able to do battle with the SEC and Clemson for players in the Southeast. 

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Any warts you have as a program get exposed when your rival is your equal, or close to it, and that is a good thing because it induces change from coaches who care about winning titles.

It also makes you better because when you have to beat a really good USC team it gives your program the confidence it needs that you can play with anyone, much like beating Stanford and Oklahoma did for the 2012 team, and beating Clemson did for the 2020 team, and beating Miami did for the 1988 team, if you want to get nostalgic.

If the Notre Dame program is led by a great coach who desires to be a champion, having a rival like USC also playing to its full potential is something that should be embraced, because it raises the bar and makes you better.

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