first_img The aural sledgehammer entitled “Tribute to Troy.” (You know it: DUM-da-da-da-da-da-da-dum-dum-duh-DE-duh.) The Coliseum, redolent with history. Two Olympics. A World Series. A Super Bowl. A thousand big events. USC has football traditions by the truckload. The white horse. The band. The “world famous” song girls. “Fight On.” Tommy Trojan. The “V” (for victory) sign fans make during the playing of “college football’s greatest battle cry,” the modestly named “Conquest.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week The 11 national championships USC claims. The six Heisman Trophy winners. Stately Heritage Hall and all those hermetically sealed trophies in the main room. Could it get any bigger? Any more colorful? Any richer? Well, yeah, it can. And it’s called Notre Dame football. USC might be No. 1 in the polls, but it still sits No. 2, at best, in the Total College Football Experience. With the Irish atop the rankings. Where to start? center_img Perhaps with “Touchdown Jesus,” the enormous mural on the side of the Hesburgh Library, just north of the stadium, in which the Christian messiah appears to be signaling “six points” with his upraised arms. USC coach Pete Carroll concedes “Touchdown Jesus” packs a wallop, especially for Roman Catholics. He responded this week by relating his trip to the famed Sacre Coeur cathedral in Paris and seeing a statue of Jesus in which he has his index and middle fingers raised just like the USC “victory” sign. OK, maybe. But we’re just starting with the Irish. The pep rally the night before home games. Tonight’s rally, on the eve of Saturday’s showdown with the top-ranked Trojans, is expected to be so huge it has been moved from the campus gym and into the 80,000-capacity football stadium. Notre Dame has sold out 181 consecutive home games and 229 of its past 230. Until the past year, USC sold out for Notre Dame and UCLA. Most of the time. Notre Dame one-ups USC on the fight-song front, too. “The Notre Dame Victory March” is more tuneful and memorable than “Fight On.” (“Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame; wake up the echoes cheering her name …”) Notre Dame has the Golden Dome. It has the Grotto, a scaled-down version of the shrine to Our Lady in Lourdes, France, where fans can light candles and pray before the game. The Irish have the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, from where Notre Dame players, in coats and ties, make a 10-minute pregame walk to the stadium through walls of adoring fans. Give the Irish an edge, too, for having their stadium on campus. The Coliseum is across a street and past a row of museums; it doesn’t even belong to USC. Notre Dame has the guy in the leprechaun outfit. It has dancing students all wearing green. Who shake their keys whenever a “key” play comes up. And it has more history. USC has the Thundering Herd and Howard Jones and John McKay . . . but Notre Dame has The Four Horsemen, Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy and Ara Parseghian. Notre Dame has had two movies filmed on its campus: “Knute Rockne: All-American” in 1940, and “Rudy,” the tear-jerker tribute to the classic underdog, Rudy Ruettiger, set in 1975 and released in 1993. The Trojans have, what, a TV-movie on O.J. Simpson’s murder case? Those six USC Heismans? Notre Dame has seven. The Irish claim 11 national championships, too, and none of them are as tenuous as some of USC’s early (1931, 1939) No. 1 claims. Notre Dame also eclipses the Trojans when it comes to lore. Real and imagined. USC has nothing to compete with George Gipp. The subject of the inspirational Knute Rockne 1928 halftime speech in which Rockne quoted the former Irish standout, on his death bed in 1920, asking his successors to “win just one for the Gipper.” What usually is considered the greatest first paragraph in sports writing history was about a Notre Dame victory, by Grantland Rice in 1924. “Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen road again.” Notre Dame has the mystique of the green jerseys broken out in 1977 as the Irish blitzed the fifth-ranked Trojans 49-19. Even this season, first-year Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis already has a leg up on Pete Carroll on the spiritual front, promising a 10-year-old with cancer (who died the day before the game) that he would call a “pass right” on the first Irish play at Washington. Weis did, even though Notre Dame was on its own 1-yard line. The play went for 13 yards; the story went for scads of national exposure. The upshot: Once a season, USC plays a game in which the opposition shows up with more mojo than it can summon. Which means the Trojans have to win it on the field. They have managed it only 29 times in 76 meetings, only 10 times in South Bend. Forunately, most games come down to blocking and tackling, conditioning and execution. USC presumably competes on an even footing there. Leprechauns might be on the sidelines, but they won’t be in the huddle. Paul Oberjuerge’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He may be reached at [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img