There may be a wager in the works between the Vikings' two 2012 first-round draft picks – Matt Kalil of USC and Harrison Smith of Notre Dame.
Today the alma maters of both will play with a BCS National Championship Game berth on the line for the Fighting Irish. Before the 2012 college season began, many analysts had USC as the No. 1 team in the country. Many of those same prognosticators had Notre Dame unranked. As they meet Saturday in Pasadena, Calif., the Fighting Irish are ranked No. 1 and the Trojans are unranked.
"It's been a strange year at USC," Kalil said. "But we've beaten Notre Dame enough times that they won't come in there thinking they're going to run us off the field. They know they've got a game in front of them."
It's been a long time since Notre Dame has been the No. 1 team in the country. Much like the NFL's Dallas Cowboys or the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball, Notre Dame has a national legion of loyal fans and just as many who hate them like poison. To many, the Irish are their favorite college team. To others, they're their second-favorite team – everyone else ties for first.
It would seem that bragging rights are at stake and, before game time, it seems almost inevitable that a wager (whether it be in the sense of pride or money or both) is inevitable.
"There probably will be," Smith said of that prospect. "… We might have to."
Advised that he may have to give Kalil points because Notre Dame is favored, Smith bristled at the notion.
"I'm not giving him any points," said Smith, the smile vanishing from his face into a cold stare. "It's a home game for them and they've beaten us – I didn't know how many times."
While Smith's former teammates have reached a level of success few thought possible back in August, Kalil's Trojans have fallen on hard times. But when it comes to their annual rivalry with Notre Dame – and their dominance in recent years – Kalil said the Fighting Irish fans may not want to make their reservations yet for Miami on Jan. 7 just yet.
"They know who they're going up against," Kalil said with a grin. "We've beaten Notre Dame a lot when we had something at stake. Now they've got something at stake and they have to get through USC to get there. We'll see how it goes."
It's been a lifetime since the Fighting Irish played for a national championship – at least Smith's lifetime. He was born Feb. 2, 1989 – one month and one day after Notre Dame won the fabled "Catholics vs. Convicts" matchup with the University of Miami. He's heard the stories many times, but, in his lifetime, he's never seen Notre Dame play for a national championship.
Smith would love nothing more than to be in attendance to see Notre Dame write a new chapter in his history. Asked if he would attend the game Jan. 7 if the Fighting Irish make the title game, Smith thought about it for a second before saying he would prefer to miss the game for business reasons.
"I don't know," Smith said. "Hopefully, we'll still be playing."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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