A whole bunch of teams think of themselves as having a rivalry with Notre Dame. Sorry to burst your bubbles, fans-of-opposing-teams, but you’re very unlikely to be our rival. Why? Because we only have one, and it’s USC. I know it makes you feel important to think you’re our rival. “We have an ongoing rivalry with Notre Dame”. “ND is our rival”. Makes you feel elevated, like you matter just a bit more. (And spare me the “ND doesn’t matter anymore” response). If that was the case, so many teams we play wouldn’t be calling us a rival, even when it’s clearly not the case.
Let’s just do the quick run-down of this year’s sked, and of those that call us a rival, and what they really are.
Nevada – never claimed it, good for them.
Michigan (sucks) – claim to be a rival, are not. The Skunkbears are the enemy, but not our rival.
Michigan State – claim to be a rival. They’re not, but they’ve been a pain in the butt, for sure. No way they’re an ND rival.
Purdue (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz) – claim to be a rival. Not even close. Not even close to within eyesight of a range in the proximity of close to being a rival.
Washington – don’t claim it, thank the Lord.
USC – claim it, and they’re correct. USC is our rival. The one, and the only. We still hate them, and we know they cheat, but we respect the history and tradition of this cross-country rivalry.
BC – claim it, but of course they’re not a rival. And having the best of a series does not make you a rival. It makes you annoying.
Washington State – no claim, awesome. Good stuff WSU.
Navy – Navy probably thinks of us as a special opponent, and we think of them in the same way, but most do not claim a rivalry here, which is good. Solid, respectable and historic matchup. Not our rival.
Pitt – many fans claim they’re a rival (heard this a lot growing up in Pittsburgh). Not even close.
UCONN – not claiming it (yet). Hooray.
Stanford – many Cardinal fans think of ND as a rival. Not sure where they get this. Not even remotely close to a rival.
This doesn’t, and isn’t meant to, belittle our opponents that are not rivals. It’s just that, by definition, any given team can only really have 1-2 rivals. We have USC. USC has us and UCLA. Pitt has WVU. Purdue has Being Awake. Michigan has Graduation Rates.
So how does this happen? How can we be everyone’s rival?
We’re ND. That’s how.
Teams look at Notre Dame on the schedule, and they circle the game. They get fired up. Their fans get fired up. This is why ND gets the best from its opponents week in and week out – for THEM, it’s a rivalry game. For US, it’s another week. Which makes the challenge even that much greater.
No matter how boring Purdue might be, for them this is a rivalry game, and they’ll give us their best shot (as boring as that shot may be), and a much better shot than they gave NIU. ND needs to be ready, each and every week. After all, almost every week is Rivalry Week when you’re Notre Dame, right?