USC Football Travels To Notre Dame For Annual Intersectional Clash
Oct. 16, 2011
USC takes a break from Pac-12 play when it travels to Notre Dame for the 83rd edition of the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football. It's the first USC night game at Notre Dame Stadium and the latest start time of any USC-ND game anywhere (and it's also the first time since 1990 that the Irish are playing a home night game). Troy will be trying to re-start a winning streak over the Fighting Irish (and regain year-long possession of the Shillelagh) after last year's loss in Los Angeles snapped an 8-game USC victory string. The Trojans have won in their past 4 visits to South Bend (and in 5 of the past 7 there). In fact, USC has won a school-record 13 consecutive non-conference road games (not including neutral sites).
The game is a battle between schools with perhaps the country's most glorious gridiron heritages. But this is only the 10th time that neither team has been ranked going into the game, and it is also the first time ever that a 5-1 USC team has not been ranked by AP. USC A.D. Pat Haden, a Trojan hero in the 1974 game, returns to the Notre Dame press box for the first time after handling color on Irish telecasts for 12 years.
USC is coming off an eighth straight win over California last Thursday. The Trojans feature 2 premier offensive skill honors candidates in veteran QB Matt Barkley (he is fifth on USC's career passing and total offense lists after setting school single game records for pass completions, yards, TDs and total offense this season) and super-talented WR Robert Woods (he is in the national Top 10 in receptions, receiving yards and all-purpose running while holding pace to break the school single season receptions and receiving yardage records). True freshman WR Marqise Lee is among the best frosh wideouts in the country. Pre-season All-American OT Matt Kalil anchors a line that has surrendered just 4 sacks (and he has blocked 4 kicks this year on special teams).
The Trojan defense, which posted a shut-down performance last outing, includes such reliable players as S T.J. McDonald (also a pre-season All-American), DE Nick Perry, LB Chris Galippo and CB Nickell Robey, plus up-and-coming young LBs Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard. Frosh PK Andre Heidari tops the Pac-12 in field goals, with just 1 miss in 11 tries.
Head coach Brian Kelly's Notre Dame squad, 7 points away from being undefeated in 2011 after starting the season 0-2, had a bye last week following a record-setting home win over Air Force. QB Tommy Rees has thrown a touchdown in 11 straight games, many of those to record-holding WR Michael Floyd, who is highly ranked nationally in receptions and receiving yards. Other key targets for Rees' aerials are TE Tyler Eifert and WRs Theo Riddick and TJ Jones. RBs Cierre Wood (20th nationally in rushing), and Jonas Gray headline the Fighting Irish ground game. ILB Manti Te'o, among the national leaders in tackles and tackles for loss, leads the ND defense along with S Harrison Smith and CB Robert Blanton.
The game, in sold-out Notre Dame Stadium (the 223rd consecutive sellout), will be shown live nationally on NBC-TV.