Saturday, November 24, 2012 4:37 pm
Notre Dame-USC: Game of the weekend
By The Associated Press
Line: Notre Dame by 7.
Series Record: Notre Dame leads 43-35-5.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
Notre Dame is on the brink of a trip to the BCS title game, needing only a win in the Coliseum to wrap up the spot. The Irish share one of college football's best intersectional rivalries with USC, which could only gain a measure of solace from a hugely disappointing season by ruining the Irish dream season.
USC WR Marqise Lee vs. Notre Dame CB Bennett Jackson. The Trojans will rely on their gifted skill-position players to take pressure off QB Max Wittek, and no defensive secondary all season has significantly slowed down Lee, who could improve his Biletnikoff Award hopes with one more monster game. Jackson is a converted receiver who will be tested all night.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Notre Dame: LB Manti Te'o. It's only fitting for the imposing middle linebacker to play his final regular-season game at the Coliseum. He came agonizingly close to choosing USC out of high school before flipping to Notre Dame, where he suffered through early disappointments before finally having a season worthy of his faith in the Irish.
USC: Wittek. The redshirt freshman makes his first career start in place of injured Matt Barkley, and his teammates are confident he'll excel. Wittek is bigger and throws harder than Barkley, with zip on his passes that hurts Lee's hands, but he has played only mop-up duty all season long.
FACTS & FIGURES
Barkley will watch his final regular-season game from the sideline with a sprained shoulder. The Pac-12's career leader in multiple passing statistics will never get to face Notre Dame at the Coliseum, also missing the game two years ago with an injury. ... USC has won nine of the schools' last 10 meetings, losing only in 2010 when Trojans WR Ronald Johnson dropped a sure TD pass in the final minutes of a 20-16 win for Notre Dame, led by QB Tommy Rees. ... Notre Dame has brought the No. 1 ranking to the Coliseum six times, with USC winning two of those matchups. The Irish haven't been No. 1 in this game since 1989. ... USC is 7-11 against all No. 1 opponents. ... Notre Dame has a higher ranking than USC in this matchup for the first time since 2000. ... USC AD Pat Haden spent 12 years as a color analyst on Notre Dame television broadcasts.