The Notre Dame-USC rivalry is back.
After nearly a 10-year period where USC dominated the series, Notre Dame broke the Trojans' eight-game winning streak two years ago in Southern California by pulling off a win over the Trojans.
This season, the Fighting Irish are on the verge of earning a bid to play in the BCS National Title Game, while the Trojans are looking for positives after a disappointing season.
USC began the season with a No. 1 overall ranking and BCS National Championship hopes. It had the all-everything quarterback, Matt Barkley, a stud running back who transferred in from Penn State, Silas Redd, and two wide receivers who were projected to be taken in the first round of the NFL draft, Marqise Lee and Robert Woods. The world was its oyster.
The Trojans have since lost four games, including one to a then-unranked Arizona squad and another to their crosstown rival UCLA, and sit outside the Top 25 rankings.
About the only thing that could possibly salvage a season once filled with such promise would be killing Notre Dame's BCS Championship Game hopes with a win over the Fighting Irish on Saturday.
With Matt Barkley out with a shoulder injury sustained last week in a loss against UCLA, the outlook for a USC win looks bleak.
However, remember that the Trojans are still the Trojans; they have top-tier talent everywhere.
Max Wittek fills the void left at quarterback after Barkley's injury and feels confident about his abilities to lead the Trojans to a win over the Fighting Irish.
Wittek has only played in two games this season and has only attempted nine passes, completing eight of them for 95 yards and a touchdown.
Most would look at these stats and say it is a small sample size to try and determine how he will perform against Notre Dame's stout defense.
However, consider that his small sample size of playing time gave the Fighting Irish's defense very little game film to study this week leading up to the game. This plays to USC's advantage when it comes game-planning, as it can throw wrinkles into its offensive game plan that Notre Dame will not be able to see on previous game film from this year.
Furthermore, Notre Dame's defensive strategy is not a confusing one; it plays like it lines up. There is not much shifting on the defensive line and the defense does not play complex coverages in the secondary.
The Fighting Irish have also shown that they are vulnerable against the pass, currently ranked at No. 24 overall in pass defense, giving up 195.2 yards per game. They start freshman KeiVarae Russell at cornerback and sophomore Matthias Farley at safety.
Look for USC's pass-happy attack to target Notre Dame's underclassmen in the secondary and gash the Fighting Irish secondary for big yards and multiple touchdowns.
If USC can do just that, it will win this game over Notre Dame and kill the Fighting Irish's hopes of playing in the BCS National Championship Game this season.
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