One reason Notre Dame could be in a lot of trouble vs. USC
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an update to a headline and story that were originally written in November 2014.
UPDATE: USC is coming off one of the most tumultuous weeks any college football program has had in years. On top of a coaching change, the Trojans also lost the leader of their O-line for the season — center Max Tuerk — and are really banged-up at receiver. I was convinced the Irish should win handily at home this week. But then I remembered something I wrote from last year in the days before Notre Dame’s game against Arizona State, a game the Irish lost 55-31 — which means Notre Dame is now 2-6 in the game after its matchup with Navy. And those two lone wins came against teams that finished those seasons with a losing record.
A few years ago I coined the "Body Blow Theory" as it relates to college football teams impacted the week after playing Stanford. Some other writers have taken note, as this person did in regards to USC losing to Boston College after facing the Cardinal earlier this season.
I’ve also had a few readers point out examples where it also seems to be in play, and on Tuesday morning, one of those readers provided a pretty interesting example of the Body Blow Theory that is very relevant this week.
From reader Brad Thompson:
"As a Notre Dame fan, we play the teams you directly reference (MSU & Stanford) and the results following those games really do fall in step. After watching the ND/Navy game and seeing all of the defensive players leaving with injuries, I thought they might fall into the category as well (ask Ohio State). Sure enough, the last few years show exactly that. Nice work (I’d pick ASU this week against ND)."
2013: Lost to 7-6 Pittsburgh (all DL hurt)
2012: Beat 6-7 Purdue by three
2011: Beat 6-7 Wake Forest by seven
2010: Lost to 10-3 Tulsa (but still, Tulsa)
2009: Lost to 10-3 Pittsburgh
2008: Lost to an awful 3-9 Syracuse team at home
2007: Lost by 17 to 9-4 Air Force (sure, we lost to everyone that year, but by 17 to Air Force)
That’s 2-5 (2-6 including 2014’s loss to ASU) the game after playing Navy, with both Notre Dame wins coming against teams that finished with losing records. In the 2012 game against Purdue, the Irish were favored by 14 and won by just three. In 2011, they were a 13.5-point favorite against Wake and won by only seven.
The loss to the 2008 Orange team came when Notre Dame was a 19-point favorite. In 2007, they were an eight-point favorite against Air Force. Worse still, the only team among the seven that was ranked at the time was that 2009 Pitt team. Everyone else was unranked.
Going a step further, in 2014 teams are just 2-6 the week after facing Navy. As Brad noted, one of those teams, Ohio State, lost by 14 at home to an unranked Virginia Tech team that is now 4-5 and just 1-4 in the ACC. And one of those two wins was Temple playing an FCS opponent, Delaware State, that is just 2-8.
I was tempted to pick Notre Dame this week, but after this, I’m not so sure.
Bruce Feldman is a senior college football reporter and columnist for FOXSports.com and FS1. He is also a New York Times best-selling author. His new book, “The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks,” came out in October 2014. Follow him on Twitter @BruceFeldmanCFB and Facebook.