Brian Dohn -- Recruiting ReporterWhat was USC quarterback Max Wittek supposed to say? "I hope to do well, and maybe we can stay close." He wasn't being braggadocious. He was showing confidence. If Notre Dame needs a first-time starting quarterback to say something and use it as bulletin board material, then there is an issue. The Irish are 60 minutes away from playing for a national championship, and the real story is whether Notre Dame's defense can confuse and pressure Wittek.
There are two things the Irish need to make sure they take care of and they will win the game. Notre Dame cannot turn the ball over multiple times, and the secondary must still find a way to slow USC Marquel Lee. Do those things and the Irish will be playing for a national title.
Notre Dame 34, USC 17
Dave Berk -- Recruiting AnalystThrow out the record books when Notre Dame and USC battle. Matt Barkley is out but that does not mean the Trojans are without a quarterback as they are expected to throw redshirt freshman Max Wittek to the Irish monster defense. Wittek is no stranger to following Barkley as he did it in high school. While Wittek is young he's got a gun-slinger mentality and will look for the big throws. However, it's those around Wittek that make this a hard fought victory for the Irish who will punch their ticket for the National Championship game with a 24-17 victory.
Morrissey79 -- ModeratorThe moment is here -- ND is traveling to LA to finish off what would be it's first 12-0 season in 24 years.
Before the season began, Notre Dame was unranked and USC was ranked #1 by some publications. Now, Notre Dame is the unanimous #1 ranked team, and USC has fallen out of the top 25.
We are at a point that not many expected. Led by arguably one of the most polarizing and greatest players to come through Notre Dame, the Irish defense can say it is the best in the country. Led by 2 senior running backs, who encourage and share the ball so well, as well as the best tight end in the nation, the offense is starting to click, putting up it's best performance year to date on Saturday (at least in my opinion).
This is where we are - one game, at the Coliseum, for a chance to play for the national title. It truly doesn't get better than this for Irish fans.
With the news that Matt Barkley is out, a lot of people feel this game is heavily in ND's favor. However, what people need to focus on is this is still a very talented USC team, with some elite skill players that ND will have to bottle up. Expect Diaco to be conservative on defense, similar to the Oklahoma game plan, and make Max Wittek go on long, sustaining drives to score points. ND will be glad to give up short passes - it will not want to give up anything over the top.
On offense, ND is hitting it's stride - Golson played his best game year to date, and is finally utilizing all of his playmakers, going through reads, throwing over the middle of the field, and taking shots downfield. ND needs to maintain a strong rushing attack against SC, and continue to do what it does best - win first and second down, be efficient on third down, and win the time of possession battle.
Kiffin will throw everything he has at ND this weekend - he knows he needs to win this game to build up some favor with the SC faithful. He knows the national spotlight will be on the game with ESPN's Game Day on campus. And he knows this is his chance to redeem a lost season at this point.
However, this is a team of destiny in my mind. Led by Riddick, Wood, Eifert, Martin, Cave, Kap, Teo, & Motta, this team has too much veteran leadership to get this far and fail at the very end. Led by one of the best coaching staffs in the nation, with Brian Kelly adapting and improving individually as a coach, this staff is too strong to get this far and mess up a perfect season.
ND will show up to play, similar to the Oklahoma game, and I honestly feel it won't be close. Not necessarily because of Max Wittek, but because this is a team of destiny, and this is just another step on this magical ride of a season.
Notre Dame 35 USC 13
SeattleNDFan -- ModeratorSC with a new QB trying to run Lane Kiffin's West Coast Offense will likely feed Notre Dame a steady diet of bubble screen left, bubble screen right, mixed in with runs from Curtis McNeal and Silas Redd (if his ankle allows). It will be up to the Irish to limit yards after the catch and stop the run with their front seven.
On deffense, SC has proven vulnerable to the outside zone and has had trouble setting the edge all season, which sets up nicely for the running style of Cierre Wood. Their front seven has been solid while their back four have been inconsistent, a dynamic that should allow Tyler Eifert to roam behind the linebackers and in front of the safeties if Everett Golson has time to find him.
I think this game will be close through halftime and Notre Dame's superior depth and conditioning will eventually allow a little breathing room for the Irish by the fourth quarter.
Notre Dame 20 Southern Cal 12
GaviND -- ModeratorAfter nineteen years of futility and frustration, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are back atop the world of college football. After a 38-0 shellacking of Wake Forest and receiving some help from both Baylor and Stanford, the Irish are ranked first in the newest BCS poll.
The celebration must be short lived however as boys will travel to Los Angeles for their annual battle with USC -- the teams final hurdle in an undefeated season and unforeseen trip to the national title game in Miami.
USC comes into this year's contest beaten up, having lost three of their last four games and losing their quarterback Matt Barkley to a shoulder injury.
In for Barkley steps redshirt freshman quarterback Max Wittek -- a much heralded recruit out of California. While Wittek clearly lacks Barkley's experience (9 pass attempts) he might actually be more talented, possessing more mobility and a cannon. Helping him with the transition to starting quarterback will be the dynamic duo of Robert Woods and Marquise Lee. Both playmakers have blazing speed and Lee has been virtually unstoppable racking up over 100 receptions and 1600 yards.
While the Trojans have athletes stacked like pancakes at virtually every skill position, the offensive line has been their achilles heel of late. The Trojans are likely to move the ball well between the twenties, however with a young and inexperienced signal caller under center, I expect Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco to mix up the defensive fronts and try to confuse and overwhelm Wittek.
Offensively the Irish should be able to move the ball as Monte Kiffin's defense has struggled mightily late in the season -- especially against teams that spread them out. I would expect the Irish to use heavy doses of Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick which should ultimately open things up for Everett Golson on play-action.
I don't care what the rankings say and I don't care what USC's record is. USC is, in my mind, the most talented team we have faced this season. While things have not turned out the way most expected for the Trojans, they have enough talent to beat any team in the country on any given today.
Notre Dame is playing for a trip to the National Championship Game. USC might be playing to save their coach's job. Something has to give.
ND 27 USC 17
KurzND -- ModeratorComing into this game it was completely plausible and almost expected that one team would be #1 and undefeated while the other would be 7-4 moving along. However I don't think anyone saw that the #1 would be ND and SC the struggling one.
SC comes in with a defense that has been shredded and an offense that is now missing their star senior QB in Matt Barkley. However they still have offensive firepower that may be unequaled in college with Lee, Woods, Grimble, Redd and many more. However with all that talent led by Barkley, has thrown a career high 15 INTs and turnovers have been a big problem for the Trojans.
Even with redshirt freshman Max Wittek making his first appearance the Trojan offense still is very deadly. The Irish defensive line will have to have another fantastic game by stuffing the Trojan run game and force the young QB to beat the Irish. The big match up's to watch is Russel vs Woods/Lee and Nix vs Holmes. SC will score some points, but when they do ND has to make sure that they are long multiple play drives and no quick scores.
On offense for the Irish, they need to do what they have done all year. Continue to run the ball and control the clock. The Trojan defense may not be the biggest defense however they are quick. Golson has taken huge steps forward with only two turnovers in the past 4 games. He needs to continue the trend of protecting the ball and help keep the Irish alive on 3rd and short. Look for the Irish to pound the Trojans on the ground and rush for another 200+ yards and for Golson to throw under 30 passes.
If the Irish control the clock and rush for 200+ ND will book her flight to Miami for the BCS National Championship.
Notre Dame 27 USC 20
BNolan -- ModeratorWow, what a tough game to predict. Not that some of the others haven't been, but the pressure/hype/implications here are obviously beyond huge.
Despite the multiple losses, U$C is still dangerous and would like nothing better than to derail the Irish. Heck, it might help Kitty keep his job.
If Barkley is truly out, that throws more questions into the boiling pot. Not that I think the Irish couldn't/wouldn't beat them with a healthy Barkley, we have the defense for sure, and the offense in theory. With Wittek in, the Irish D should go after him hard. Hopefully Bob dials up some scary schemes to put him on the ground.
This is a classic scenario in which I'm still trying to get over nearly two decades of major let downs, trying to believe that the team really is at a place, finally, to win the big games when they should. And they should. Part of me even thinks the Irish may lay a whoopin' on them. But the doubter in me worries, the part of me that watched the Pitt and BC games. Or will it be the ND that soundly defeated Oklahoma at their place?
If we are that team, the Trojans lose. So... if we are somewhere in the middle of all of that 'what if' stuff, and do what I always preach about and hope for (not beating themselves with turnovers and bonehead penalties) we win. And move towards the NC game. Wow.
ND 27 U$C 13