USC Goes To Notre Dame For Traditional Intersectional Battle
Oct. 14, 2007
No. 9/13 USC meets Notre Dame for the 79th time in the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football. A win would give USC a 6-game winning streak over the Irish, its longest in the series. USC has been victorious only 3 times in its past 12 visits to South Bend, but the last time the Trojans were there was Troy's dramatic last-second victory that featured the Leinart-Jarrett fourth down pass and then Leinart's 'Bush Push' touchdown (and the time before that, USC scored its most-ever points in South Bend in a 31-point win). The game is a battle between the schools with perhaps the most glorious gridiron heritages. It's the 10th and 25th anniversary of a pair of last-minute USC victories over the Irish and the 75th anniversary of a Trojan shutout en route to Troy's third national championship. It's also the 30th anniversary of Notre Dame's 'Green Jersey' victory in 1977 and the Irish will wear throwback green jerseys this Saturday to commemorate it. The winner gets year-long possession of the Shillelagh. It's the start of a trying part of USC's schedule, as 4 of its next 5 outings are on the road (and 3 of those opponents are ranked above the Trojans). USC has won its last 7 non-conference road games. Last weekend, Troy rebounded from its stunning home loss to Stanford by posting a fourth-quarter comeback to narrowly beat Arizona. However, the Trojans fell out of the AP Top 10 this week for the first time since a school-record 63-game run. Injuries have been a factor in USC's season so far, with 23 key Trojans having missed at least 1 game. QB Mark Sanchez could be at the controls of Troy's offense again this week, pending the status of QB John David Booty's broken finger. Booty ranks in the USC career Top 10 in passing and total offense. The Trojan running attack, much improved over a year ago, has been bolstered by the recent play of true freshman TB Joe McKnight (who also has made an impact as a returner) and could get another boost once TB Stafon Johnson returns from injury. TE Fred Davis, a Mackey Award candidate who leads the nation's tight ends in yards per game and per catch, has been the featured receiver along with WR Patrick Turner. The USC offensive line has been hard-hit by the injury bug, with reliable 2-time All-American OT Sam Baker maybe the latest on the list. USC's defense has been staunch, as statistically the Trojans are in the national Top 25 in every category. It features All-American DT Sedrick Ellis and DE Lawrence Jackson (he has 24 career sacks) on the line, the nation's premier linebacking corps led by LB Keith Rivers (a leading Butkus Award candidate) and a secondary with CB Terrell Thomas, S Taylor Mays and S Kevin Ellison. USC head coach Pete Carroll, the nation's winningest active coach, has led his Trojans to 5 consecutive AP Top 4 finishes, BCS bowls, Pac-10 titles and 11-win seasons. Head coach Charlie Weis has seen his third Notre Dame team struggle this season (its 0-5 start was the worst in program history). The Irish fell last weekend to Boston College after getting their first victory of 2007 by upsetting UCLA the previous week. ND's defense, which has gone to a 3-4 alignment this year, ranks high in the national stats against the pass and features such talented defenders as ILB Maurice Crum (who got 4 turnovers at UCLA), DE Trevor Laws and SS Tom Zbikowski. But the young Irish offense has posted stats near or at the bottom of the national charts in every category. QBs Jimmy Clausen, a true freshman, and Evan Sharpley have tried their hands at directing the ND offense, with TE John Carlson the top target. The game, in sold-out Notre Dame Stadium (the 196th consecutive sellout), will be shown live nationally on NBC-TV. The USC men's and women's swimming and diving teams will compete in the Irish pool on Friday (Oct. 19).