The University of Southern California (7-4, 5-4 Pac-12) will host the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame (11-0) in one of college football's best non-conference rivalries. These are two of the highest-profile teams on the national landscape and neither much likes sharing the spotlight.
Notre Dame hasn't had this much riding on a game in forever, and the players will certainly bring the intensity.
History is not with the Irish. They've managed just one win in the last decade, a 20-16 win in 2010.
But this is not the same team from Notre Dame, and the Trojans have certainly slipped this season.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly affirms that his team doesn't consider the history an issue.
I don't think they look at USC and think of dominance. They felt like last year they let a game slip through their hands with sloppy play. Beat them at their place.
So, no, our guys are excited about playing a rival in USC. But there's no trepidation. There's a great deal of respect for USC and what they've done. But our guys are very confident in themselves as well.
Following are the particulars, including just what is riding on this game.
When: Saturday, Nov. 24 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: .Los Angeles Coliseum, Los Angeles
Listen: Free Football Radio
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Spread: Notre Dame -5.5 (odds via Bovada)
I like the Irish to win the game, but their approach to the game could keep the score close. They'll lean on their defense to carry them to the win and do just enough on offense to secure the win.
The biggest threat to Notre Dame is making mistakes on offense. The Irish can't afford to give the Trojans any cheap points.
For those that feel the Trojans will rally, the moneyline pays 190.
This should be a defensive struggle, which may not favor USC. They'll miss Matt Barkley, and they have the second-best defense on the field.
One of these teams will need to play out of character to hit the over. Either USC's offense will need to fire with their freshman quarterback in his first start or Notre Dame's offense will need to have one of their best games of the season against a major opponent.
Injury Report (via USA Today as of Wednesday, Nov. 21)
Tate Nichols, T, Questionable (Knee)
Matt Hegarty, C, Questionable (Undisclosed)
Kona Schwenke, NT, Questionable (Shoulder)
Nick Tausch, K, Questionable (Groin)
DaVaris Daniels, WR, Out (Shoulder)
D.J. Morgan RB, Questionable (Leg)
Aundrey Walker T, Questionable (Neck)
Christian Thomas, TE, Questionable (Hip)
Matt Barkley, QB, Out (Shoulder)
This game couldn't be any bigger for Notre Dame, unless the Trojans were also undefeated.
The Irish will advance to the national championship game with a win. A loss keeps them in a BCS game, but their goal is getting a shot at being crowned champs. They don't have a conference to win, so this is it.
Keys for Notre Dame Victory
The Irish will be all about playing defense. It has been their focus all season, and with a freshman stepping in under center for his first collegiate start, expect Manti Te'o to bring pressure in the form of a pass rush and dropping into coverage.
The Irish have the best defense in the nation and top road rushing defense. They will limit ground options, forcing Max Wittek to pass the ball.
Keys for USC Victory
The Trojans need to generate an offensive push to win this game. That was expected to start and end with Matt Barkley, but he'll be on the sidelines for this game.
Max Wittek, who will start at QB for USC vs. ND, was 114 days old the last time Notre Dame was ranked #1 (11/22/93)— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) November 19, 2012
The good news is the Trojans still have two of the best receivers in the nation. Marqise Lee leads college football in receptions (107) and yards (1,605). Robert Woods picks up where he can with 66 receptions and 721 yards.
Wittek has been effective when given the opportunity this season. He's completed eight of his nine attempts for 95 yards and a touchdown.
But Notre Dame will pose more of a threat than Hawaii or Colorado, against whom six of the nine attempts were thrown.
Wittek likes the matchup and feels he has an advantage, per a report by the Los Angeles Daily News.
Every defense has its soft spots. We want to take advantage of their soft spots. They haven't seen me and what my strengths are.
As much as I love the confidence of Wittek, I just can't bring myself to pick the upset. It will be close, but the non-guarantee won't come to pass.
For those keeping track, Wittek's comment of "I'm going to play within myself, within the system, and we're going to win this ballgame," was not a guarantee.
Kapron Lewis-Moore on Max Wittek saying USC will win. "What do you expect? You don’t expect him to say, 'We're gonna lose.'"— Irish Illustrated (@NDatRivals) November 21, 2012
I like the confidence. I don't expect it to be executed, but as the leader of the offense he needs to show his teammates he's ready to go.
Predicted Score: Notre Dame 19, USC 17
Darin Pike is a writer for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team and a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and the Seattle Seahawks.
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