Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at 12:30 p.m. PT on ABC and WatchESPN
Irish to Watch: Junior QB DeShone Kizer
While the Fighting Irish have had a dreadful season, Kizer has kept them in every game. He is a big time talent who could be a star at the next level. Kizer has thrown 24 TDs to only 8 INTs, averaging 246 yards per game. He is also ND's second-leading rusher, accounting for 509 yards and 7 TDs on the ground. The matchup between Kizer and Sam Darnold will be one to watch over the next two seasons.
Click here for more on the Fighting Irish.
While Notre Dame is 4-7, the Fighting Irish have lost all seven games by eight points or less. They obviously have been deficient in closing games, but the Trojans will not want to rely on that curse to continue. Two years ago, Notre Dame dragged itself to Los Angeles at the end of a trying campaign, and USC jumped on the Irish early and they went away. The Trojans would be wise to employ the same strategy because Brian Kelly's team would love nothing more than to spoil its rival's season if USC lets Notre Dame hang around.
For the Old Guys
For 14 USC seniors, Saturday's run out of the Coliseum tunnel will be their last in the Cardinal and Gold. Given everything that many of them have been through, they deserve to go out on top. "It's kind of funny that I say this finally in my senior year, this is what I came to USC for," said senior RB Justin Davis about finishing his career on a winning streak. "Being a part of this as my senior year, I could not ask for anything more." While even brighter days are ahead for this program, the seniors deserve one more day to savor the sun.
The Task at Hand
The Trojans have been in "playoff mode" for the last two months, battling back in the Pac-12 to put themselves in position to win the South if Utah beats Colorado on Saturday. The Notre Dame result will have no bearing on USC's hopes to win the division, so the Trojans are faced with a mental test of focusing on the game in front of them. It should help that the Irish are arguably USC's greatest rival and nearly every contributor on this team tasted defeat last year in South Bend. The Trojans have displayed excellent mental toughness during this seven-game winning streak, but they need to dip into that well one more time.
- USC is as healthy as can be expected after three months of football. Head coach Clay Helton expects CB Jonathan Lockett and DL Josh Fatu to return to action this week.
- Here is Helton's final press conference of the week on giving thanks, his ideal Thanksgiving meal and more:
- USC is getting healthier at just the right time. Head coach Clay Helton said that WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, DL Stevie Tu'ikolovatu and DL Josh Fatu were all back at practice.
- USC's seniors will be honored on Saturday before the game. Helton is extremely appreciative of this veteran group which has experienced a ton of adversity over the last four years. "This class has been the ultimate in battle-tested," said Helton. "They've done a terrific job through the high times and the lows and stayed even keeled. And now they have a chance to do something really special down the stretch here."
- While DT Stevie Tu'ikolovatu is a senior, he's only been at USC for one year, so he does not expect to be quite as emotional as some of his teammates. But, he has had his eye on this opponent for a while. "I am just excited to play against Notre Dame," said the Utah grad transfer. "I have never played
against them before. They have the reputation of having good offensive
linemen. I'm excited for the challenge."
- After the game, all Trojan eyes will be on Utah and Colorado as USC's Pac-12 South fate hangs in the balance. "They said they were going to take care of Colorado for us," reported Tu'ikolovatu, who spoke to his former teammates on Sunday. "I think they'll do a good job against Colorado and get us in a position that we need to be in. Everybody here in LA will be happy."
- While the Trojans want another shot at the Pac-12 Championship Game, they know that they have to focus on the task at hand first, which is beating Notre Dame. "We've just got to play like we have everything to lose because we do have everything to lose and they don't have anything to lose," Tu'ikolovatu said. "We can't let them come in and ruin our season."
- Over this improbable seven-game winning streak, USC has bonded together when outsiders were suggesting that the Trojans would break apart. "This month of November, we're playing as together as a team probably since I've been here," said Helton, who is in his seventh year coaching at USC. "It just feels like all three phases are playing together extremely well and leaning on each other."
- While the stars have aligned for the Trojans over a perfect October and so far immaculate November, Helton's word of the week is "finish."
- Here is Helton on a cold and windy night in Los Angeles:
Click here for the complete obituary.
A transfer from Los Angeles City College (where he won the 1950 national junior college all-around and parallel bars titles), he captured the NCAA all-around championship as a USC senior in 1952, as well as the parallel bars title in both 1951 and 1952. He received both a bachelor's and master's degree from USC.
He was the first Trojan (along with Charlie Simms) to land a
berth on the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. He participated in 3
Olympics (1952, 1956 and 1960), helping the U.S. to Top 8 finishes each
year (including fifth in 1960 and sixth in 1956). He was seventh in the
1956 Olympics horizontal bars and vault events.
Class: RS Sophomore
Size: 6-foot-5, 205 lbs.
Last College: San Francisco CC
Game: With a background in Australian rules football, a sport in which the most efficient way to move the ball is an accurate punt-like kick to a teammate, Tilbey has excelled at directional punting this season. His ability to pin the ball inside the 20 has extinguished USC opponents' hopes at returning punts. USC is tied for second in the nation with only 4 punt return plays allowed and sixth in the nation with a total of 18 punt return yards allowed all year.
Prep Career: As a freshman at San Francisco City College in 2014, Tilbey played punter and tight end. He averaged 39.4 yards on 54 punts, with 19 pinning opponents inside the 20-yard line, 9 being fair caught and 3 going for touchbacks. In high school, he played Australian rules football, basketball and cricket.
Clay Helton on Tilbey: "We've got one of the better punters in our league right now that can place the ball with Chris Tilbey."
Fun Fact: Tilbey is the only Trojan football letterman ever born in Australia.
Here is Tilbey on the path that led him to USC, special teams coach John Baxter and how he's come to love the Trojan Family:
Blanton comes to USC after 20 years of practicing law, including as a partner in the law firm of Hill, Farrer & Burrill LLP the last five years. He earned his Juris Doctor degree from USC back in 1997.
Blanton reports directly to Dickey, the senior vice president for administration, and will be responsible for managing all aspects of USC's compliance program. He will work closely with athletic director Lynn Swann, the Pac-12 and the NCAA to continue USC's "culture of compliance" which was exemplary under Roberts' leadership.
Head coach Clay Helton and his wife, Angela, have begun to work on a multi-faceted initiative to help members of the homeless community in Los Angeles. In the month of November, their goal is to collect 5,000 pairs of sneakers, with a special emphasis on large men's sneakers.
"There are so many misconceptions about the homeless," Angela said. "Many people are working and doing the best they can for their children. Clay and I wanted to help. We wanted to do our part."