Trojans, Irish in similar places

LOS ANGELES -- Notre Dame fans can look down from their perch and tell you that their history (even if you have to go back a ways) is the best in college football, every bit as strong as USC's. Their recent struggles are due to their commitment to academic excellence and the tough time they have getting kids into the school. And after all, they aren't suffering from probation for "cheating," like USC. And don't forget, Notre Dame won in the Coliseum last season, taking the Shillelagh back to South Bend.

Trojans fans obviously can point to the recent history of their program's success as proof that they are better than the Irish. USC fans point out national championships, Heisman Trophies and a decade of dominance against Notre Dame, winning eight in a row against their rival until last season. And don't forget Notre Dame's nine bowl losses in a row from 1995 to 2007. Meanwhile, USC wins big bowl games, beats top-10 teams and goes anywhere, anytime -- no Army, Navy or Air Force on its schedule. And maybe USC wouldn't be facing NCAA penalties so severe had a former Notre Dame athletic director not been on the investigative committee.

The arguments are fun to have, but the truth is these programs are in similar places. If they weren't, you wouldn't need the arguments. In 2006 and 2007, there was no need for USC fans to argue, as the distinctions were obvious. In 2011, those distinctions are harder to find.