USC Football Travels To Notre Dame For Annual Intersectional Battle
Oct. 13, 2013
USC takes a time out from Pac-12 play when it travels to Notre Dame for the 85th rendition of the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football. The teams have identical 4-2 records. The Trojans have lost just twice in their last 11 meetings with the Irish, but both losses came in the past 3 seasons, including when Matt Barkley-less USC fell at home to top-ranked ND last year. USC has not lost in South Bend since 2001, which also was the last time that a USC team with at least 2 losses visited there (Trojan teams with 2-plus losses rarely fare well in South Bend). Troy has not lost a non-conference road game since 2002. USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron should be wary: only 2 Trojan coaches have won their debut games against the Irish (neither did so in South Bend). The game is a battle between schools with perhaps the country's most glorious gridiron heritages. The winner gets year-long possession of the jeweled Shillelagh. This is only the 11th time that neither team has been ranked going into the game (Notre Dame clearly holds the upper hand in those meetings). This is just the second Trojan night game ever at Notre Dame Stadium (2011 was the first). This also ties the 2011 game as the latest USC-ND kickoff ever. USC A.D. Pat Haden, a Trojan hero in the 1974 game, spent 12 years handling color on Irish telecasts. A re-energized USC beat Arizona in Orgeron's debut last Thursday, giving Troy a few extra days to prepare for Notre Dame. The Trojan offense, with quarterbacks coach Clay Helton now calling the plays, appears balanced. TB Silas Redd, who missed the season's first 5 games with a knee injury, is back in the mix of the ground attack and he joins TBs Tre Madden (a quartet of 100-yard outings this year) and precocious true freshman Justin Davis (6 rushing TDs in 2013). QB Cody Kessler, who is showing steady growth, throws to the likes of record-setting WR Marqise Lee, the 2012 unanimous All-American and Biletnikoff Award winner who missed last game with a knee sprain, WR Nelson Agholor (he had 100 receiving yards last week) and TEs Randall Telfer and Xavier Grimble (96 catches/19 TDs between them in their careers). The USC defense started the season strongly before surrendering 1,120 total yards and 93 points the past 2 weeks. That unit, which still ranks high nationally in total defense, rushing defense, sacks and tackles for loss, features players such as OLBs Morgan Breslin (the 2012 Hendricks Award finalist who missed last week with an injury) and Devon Kennard, DEs Leonard Williams and George Uko, LB Hayes Pullard, S Dion Bailey and S-CB Josh Shaw. Head coach Brian Kelly's Notre Dame squad is coming off a bye following a tight neutral site victory over Arizona State (USC's loss the previous week to the Sun Devils precipitated Lane Kiffin's firing). The Irish offense is guided by senior QB Tommy Rees, who ranks in the school's career TD passes, completions and passing yards lists. The ND ground attack features RBs George Atkinson III, who doubles as a dangerous kickoff returner, Cam McDaniel and ex-Trojan Amir Carlisle, while WRs TJ Jones, who is sixth on ND's career receptions chart, and DaVaris Daniels and TE Troy Niklas are the top pass catchers. The Irish defense, 23rd nationally against the rush but which lost co-tackle leader ILB Jarrett Grace to a broken leg last game, is led by ILB Carlo Calabrese, 2012 All-American first team DL Stephon Tuitt and DL Louis Nix III. The game, in sold-out Notre Dame Stadium (the 237th consecutive sellout), will be shown live nationally on NBC-TV.