The Trojans have won eight consecutive in the series dating back to a 44-13 victory at The Coliseum in 2002. Notre Dame last won in Los Angeles in 2000, a victory that propelled the Irish to a BCS bid.
Below is our weekly look at the stats that define the upcoming contest.
1 – Player in Notre Dame history to record more at least 200 tackles, 15 tackles-for-loss, and 15 pass breakups in a career. Senior Harrison Smith is the first to achieve the trio, due largely to a career positional split of 19 games at linebacker and 17 at safety. 15 of Smith's 16 career TFL occurred prior to this season though he's been steadily piling up pass breakups, knocking down 7 as a linebacker in 2008; 4 last season in split duty; and 5 through 11 games this fall. Smith's 207 career tackles is most on the current roster though sophomore MIKE linebacker Manti Te'o is closing fast with 181 stops; 118 this season.
Smith picked off the first three passes of his career this season and is currently tied for the team lead with Darrin Walls.
2 – Losses by Notre Dame to the Trojans in the eight series matchups in which both entered the contest unranked. Notre Dame is 6-2 in such contests with the last win also marking Notre Dame's most recent victory in the series, a 27-16 win by Bob Davie in his final season at the helm over USC's Pete Carroll in his first as the Trojans' head man.
An unranked Notre Dame squad also defeated USC in 1999, 1985, 1983, 1960, and 1940. Unranked USC defeated unranked Notre Dame in 1997 and 1950.
3 – Wins by USC Quarterback Matt Leinart during the team's current streak over the Irish. Leinart defeated counterpart Brady Quinn in 2003-04-05 before yielding to John David Booty for the 2006 victory; current New York Jets signal caller Mark Sanchez in 2007-08, then current Trojans sophomore Matt Barkley last season. The streak was started in 2002 by eventual Heisman Trophy Winner Carson Palmer. Palmer had lost his previous two starts vs. the Irish in 2000 and 2001 though he did defeat the Irish as a freshman starter in 1998.
On the flip side, three Irish QBs have defeated the Trojans at least three times over the last 25 matchups and the grouping of wins occurred in a consecutive 9-season span: Steve Beuerlein dominated his home-state Trojans with four victories in four starts (1983-86); Tony Rice (1987-89); and Rick Mirer (1990-92). Though no USC QB has lost to the Irish four times over the last 25 seasons as did Quinn for Notre Dame vs. the Men of Troy, two triggermen failed to earn a victory in three straight contests: Rodney Peete (1986-88) and Rob Johnson (1992-94), though Johnson tied QB Ron Powlus in his first start vs. the Trojans in 1994).
4 – Losses by the Irish in the last 25 seasons when they don't commit a turnover. One such loss in a turnover free game occurred at USC in 2004, a contest in which the Irish led 10-0 before succumbing 41-10. Prior to the contest, Notre Dame was an astounding 40-0-1 when avoiding a single turnover, a streak that covered a 21-season span dating back to November 1983. The Trojans also defeated the Irish last season despite committing one turnover to ND's zero.
During USC's 8-game winning streak over the Irish program, the Trojans have surprisingly committed more turnovers than the Irish, losing 15 while forcing just 11.
5 – Contests between the teams decided by eight points or fewer over the last 15 matchups. Only the 1996 (27-20 USC in OT), 1997 (20-17 USC), 1999 (25-23 ND), 2005 (34-31 USC), and last season's contest (34-27 USC) came down to the wire. In the 15 seasons prior to 1995, eight of the teams' battles were decided by eight points or fewer with the Irish holding a 5-2-1 edge in those contests.
6 – Points allowed by Notre Dame over the last two games. Both No. 14 Utah and Army managed just a field goal vs. the Irish defense. The Utes entered the contest averaging 41 ppg while the Cadets had managed 31 per prior to tangling with Bob Diaco's defense.
Notre Dame last allowed just six points over a two-game stretch in 1996 when Lou Holtz's final team put a hurting on Pittsburgh (60-6) and Rutgers (62-0) in the coach's final two home games in South Bend. That '96 squad lost the following week in overtime at USC, 27-20 – a defeat which snapped a 13-season string without a loss to the Trojans.
7 – Current rank of USC sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley on the program's career yardage list. Barkley, whose status for Saturday is questionable due to an ankle injury suffered last week at Oregon State, has amassed 5,277 yards and trails only program leader Carson Palmer (11,621 yards), Matt Leinart, Rodney Peete, Rob Johnson, Charles White, and John David Booty. With good health, Barkley would like pass Booty and White next season (White accrued 6,240 yards) and would have a chance to top Johnson (7,896) as well as Peete (8,640) in a 12-game season plus the possibility of two more games this season.
White, Leinart and Palmer each won the Heisman Trophy while Peete was a finalist in 1988. (Editor's note: How Rob Johnson and John David Booty managed to grace this otherwise impressive list I have no idea…)
8 – Consecutive 9-win seasons by the Trojans heading into the 2010 season. With seven victories entering Saturday's contest, USC would need to defeat both the Irish and cross-town rival USC to extend the streak as the Trojans will not appear in a Bowl game this season due to NCAA sanctions.
Notre Dame won at least nine games in seven of eight seasons between 1988 and 1995 while totaling 8 wins in both 1987 and 1996, a time when the bulk of team schedules included 11 regular season games rather than the 12 played today over the bulk of the past decade. The Irish last won at least nine games in 2005 (9-3) and 2006 (10-3).
9 – Rushing touchdowns by the Irish this season. Only three of the nine touchdowns were scored by active players: Cierre Wood (2) and Robert Hughes on a one-yard plunge vs. Army last week. Injured QB Dayne Crist leads the Irish with four rushing scores while injured tailback Armando Allen chipped in two as well.
USC redshirt-junior tailback Marc Tyler has totaled nine rushing touchdowns on the season to pace the Trojans.
10 – Points scored in the 1998 matchup between the teams at The Coliseum, the lowest total in the series' modern era (1964). Unranked USC's 10-0 upset of the No. 9 Irish ended Notre Dame's bid for an inaugural BCS appearance. The Irish offense was powerless without QB Jarious Jackson who injured his knee while taking an intentional safety to conclude the previous week's contest against LSU.
The Trojans held Notre Dame to 217 yards of total offense and limited two backup quarterbacks (Eric Chappell and Arnaz Battle) to just 7 of 22 passing with four interceptions. USC's 10 points came on back-to-back 3rd Quarter possessions after a scoreless first half.
Following the contest, then Irish head coach Bob Davie promptly through his starter, Chappell, under the proverbial bus: "I think the pressure got to Eric, and it was obvious."
11 – Consecutive quarters in which the Irish defense has not surrendered a touchdown, the longest streak at the program since Gerry Faust's first team in 1981 (vs. Navy, Georgia Tech and Air Force). One season prior, Dan Devine's final Irish squad defended its goal successfully for 23 consecutive quarters, not allowing a touchdown from October 18 through November 22, nearly a six-game span.
The Trojans rank 30th nationally in Scoring Offense entering Saturday's contest at 32.6 ppg. Over their current eight-game winning streak vs. the Irish, the Men of Troy have totaled 44, 45, 41, 34, 44, 38, 38, and 34 points, respectively. Just once has an Irish defense held USC below 40 in The Coliseum during that span, a 38-3 murdering of the Irish in 2008 when Charlie Weis' overmatched offense notched its first new set of downs on the final play of the 3rd Quarter.
Notre Dame last held USC without a touchdown in 1990, a 10-6 win over head coach Larry Smith, QB Todd Marinovich and the No. 18 Trojans in Los Angeles.
12 – Matchups between the programs in which one of the team's entered the contest ranked No. 1. USC has won 7 of those meetings, most recently in back-to-back 2004-05 matchups. The Irish also prevailed in back-to-back seasons over USC as the nation's top team as part of a 23-game winning streak in 1988-89.
The No. 1 ranked Trojans took down Notre Dame in 1962, 1967, and 1972 while upsetting the No. 1 Irish in 1938 and (famously) 1964.
Top ranked ND teams hammered USC in 1947 and 1949. Both teams were ranked in nine of the 12 matchups above.
Bonus Stat: 13 – Consecutive matchups in which USC failed to defeat the Irish from 1983 through 1995. Notre Dame defeated the Trojans in 11 straight from '83 through '93 before tying at The Coliseum in '94. The Irish rebounded to bury No. 5 USC, 38-10 in South Bend in '95 before being upset in overtime as the nation's 10th ranked team in 1996, Lou Holtz's final game as Irish head coach.
IrishEyes will have a complete run down on the streaky nature of the USC/ND series in a Thanksgiving morning column.
On the HorizonIrish players that could reasonably accomplish statistical milestones Saturday vs. the Trojans:
David Ruffer:Has connected on 20 consecutive field goals and all 20 attempts in his career. Ruffer is 15 for 15 this season and last week broke teammate Nick Tausch's program record of 14 consecutive field goals without a miss in one season, a mark Tausch set as a freshman in 2009.
Michael Floyd: Has caught 154 passes in 26 career games. Floyd enters Saturday's contest three receptions short of tying Tom Gatewood and Golden Tate (2007-09) for third on the programs list, and 25 short of Jeff Samardzija's program record 179 grabs from 2003-2006.
Floyd currently ranks third on the program's touchdown receptions chart is just one shy of tying Tate (26) and two from Samardzija (27) for the program record.
Likewise, Floyd needs just 150 receiving yards to pass Tim Brown (2,493) and move into 4th place on the program's career receiving yardage list. Next on Floyd's radar after Brown is Derrick Mayes who totaled 2,512 receiving yards from 1992-95. Golden Tate set the program record last season, finishing his three-year Irish career with 2,707 receiving yards - 2,604 of which were accrued between 2008-09.
Ethan Johnson: With his next (full) sack, the junior defensive end will move into 10th place ahead of the late Wally Kleine (1983-86) on the program's career sack list. Justin Tuck (2002-04) holds the program record with 24.5 sacks in 36 career games. Saturday's contest vs. USC will mark Johnson's 37th game played as a member of the Irish.
Nipping at Johnson's heels is classmate Darius Fleming with 11.5 sacks including a team-high six this season.
Darrin Walls: With 20 career pass breakups, Walls needs one to move ahead of Ralph Stepaniak (1969-71) and the legendary Todd Lyght (1987-1990) into fifth-place on the program's career list. Walls could also tie the late Dave Waymer who broke up 22 passes from 1976-79.
Armando Allen: Out for the season due to hip surgery, the senior concluded his Irish career in 5th place among all running backs on the program's receiving yardage list.
- Joseph Heap 1137 (1951-54)
- Bob Gladieux 947 (1966-68)
- Jim Morse 902 (1954-56)
- Darius Walker 816 (2004-06)
- Armando Allen Jr. 809 (2007-2010)
Allen moved past Rocket Ismail (1988-1990) into 5th place on the program's all-purpose yardage list earlier this season. The senior will finish his career behind only Julius Jones (5,462), Autry Denson (5,327), Allen Pinkett (5,259) and Tim Brown (5,024) on the all-time list. Allen amassed 4,250 all-purpose yards thanks to the early portion of his career in which he totaled 1,360 kick and punt return yards. Allen finished with 2,078 career rushing yards, just 197 away from 10th place on the program's career rushing list.