Te'o a Trojan? Why Notre Dame Must Beat USC for Manti

By Tom O'Toole

Besides the obvious fact that Notre Dame must beat USC to get to the National Championship game, there is another epic reason why the Irish must defeat the Trojans tomorrow.

It would prove that Manti Te’o made the right choice in picking Notre Dame over Southern Cal.

You see, the Irish linebacker grew up a USC fan, watching USC win national titles in 2003 and 2004. Furthermore, Te’o was all set to commit to play under Pete Carroll at USC, but in the 11th hour, something changed.

“I was going to go to USC. Then I prayed about it and I was directed [to Notre Dame],” confirmed Te’o. “I think that was the only thing that could persuade me to come here. I was sold on USC…but I prayed about it and everything pointed this way.”

Te’o also admitted he felt better about his choice of Notre Dame when, shortly after settling on coming to South Bend, Carroll, the long-time Trojan head coach who had made a big pitch for Te’o, suddenly left Southern California for the NFL.

And shortly after Carroll skipped town, the NCAA caught up with the Trojan shenanigans, reducing the school’s scholarships and banning USC from bowl games for two seasons due to several Trojan players (including Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush) accepting illegal payments.

In normal years, I think Te’o, whose game thrives on integrity, would be happy enough with the knowledge that he got the chance to play on a clean college team rather than a dirty one. But this season, the stakes are higher, and I don’t believe Te’o feels his higher moral ground will be completely validated if the bad boys from Troy beat his Notre Dame “family.”

“You know, that’s the first time I’ve ever changed my brain over to think about it in those terms,” said Irish coach, Brian Kelly, this week when asked how he would defend Te’o if he’d gone to USC instead of Notre Dame. “Not a very comforting [thought]. I know he’s a pain in the butt when we go against him in the spring.”

Let’s pray that our man Te’o can be a “pain in the butt” to the Trojans that Kelly talked about. Because if Te’o and company put redshirt braggart Max Wittek on his butt enough Saturday, not only will Kelly never have to consider that not-comforting question again, but Te’o will never have to regret choosing the Midwestern morals of South Bend over the anything-goes values of Hotel (Southern) California.

Related: ‘The Irish Quit.’ Notre Dame’s Revenge vs. USC

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