USC Football Hosts Intersectional Rival Notre Dame

Nov. 19, 2006

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No. 3/2 USC and No. 6 Notre Dame meet for the 78th time in the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football....and there's a lot on the line as the winner stays alive in the hunt for a berth in the BCS Championship Game. The Trojans are coming off a solid victory over California that gave them at least a share of an unprecedented fifth consecutive Pac-10 title and clinched--at worst--their 31st Rose Bowl berth. USC has beaten Notre Dame in the past 4 meetings, including last year's memorable nailbiter in South Bend. The last time both teams were ranked so high by AP going into the game was in 1988 (it's just the fifth time ever that both are in the Top 6). The winner gets year-long possession of the Shillelagh. The game is a battle between the schools with perhaps the most glorious gridiron heritages. It's the last game for USC's seniors in the 92,000-seat Coliseum, which will be sold out for the 10th straight game (Pac-10 records for home average and total attendance likely will fall). USC, which has won 54 of its last 57 games (the 3 losses were by a total of 8 points), is riding a Pac-10 record 32-game home winning streak. And the Trojans, playing one of the nation's toughest schedules (they have beaten the SEC West and Big 12 North champs and the Pac-10 runnerup), are 19-0 in November under sixth-year head coach Pete Carroll, the nation's winningest active coach. USC--which has had an AP Top 4 finish (including national championships in 2003 and 2004) and a BCS bowl appearance in each of the past 4 years--has scored at least 20 points in an NCAA-record 62 consecutive outings and been ranked in the AP Top 10 for the past 56 games. It's the 10th anniversary of the 1996 game (USC's overtime win that broke the Irish's 13-game unbeaten string over Troy), the 75th anniversary of USC's famous 1931 victory over Notre Dame (Johnny Baker's late field goal snapped the Irish's 26-game unbeaten string and gave the Trojans their first win in South Bend) and the 80th anniversary of the first game in the series (a 1-point Notre Dame win in 1926). USC enters the game with an offense that appears to have come into its own--it is nationally ranked in total, scoring and passing offense--and a defense that leads the Pac-10 in every statistical category (and is in every NCAA Top 25 listing). QB John David Booty, in just his first year as a starter, is playing efficient, productive ball. All-American candidate WR Steve Smith and 2005 Biletnikoff Award finalist and All-American WR Dwayne Jarrett, who is the Pac-10's career touchdown reception leader, both rank in USC's career pass receiving Top 6. The O-line, featuring the likes of 2005 All-American OT Sam Baker and Rimington Award candidate C Ryan Kalil, has done well lately in opening holes for TBs Chauncey Washington, C.J. Gable (who was impressive last week) et al. The young Trojan defense (just 1 senior starter) has received good play from veterans such as LBs Keith Rivers and Dallas Sartz and DE Lawrence Jackson, who has 4 sacks in the past 2 weeks. PK Mario Danelo continues to be a near-flawless kicker. Notre Dame, led by head coach Charlie Weis, has won its past 8 games after stumbling early to Michigan. The Irish offense, highly ranked throughout the national stats, is directed by talented QB Brady Quinn, who claims among his ND career records those for total offense, passing completions, pass yardage and touchdown passes. WRs Jeff Samardzija, a 2005 All-American who is the school recordholder for TD receptions, and Rhema McKnight, ND's career reception leader, form a dangerous tandem. HB Darius Walker is a threat running and catching. Notre Dame's defense is anchored by MLB Maurice Crum, FS Chinedum Ndukwe, SS Tom Zbikowski and sackmaster DE Victor Abiamiri. The game will be shown live nationally on ABC-TV. For the second USC home game this season (and fifth ever), ESPN's GameDay pre-game show will be on site. The USC women's basketball team hosts Notre Dame on Friday (Nov. 24) as part of a tripleheader in the new Galen Center (along with women's volleyball and men's basketball contests).

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