No. 5 USC Football Hosts Notre Dame In 80th Intersectional Showdown

Nov. 23, 2008

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No. 5 USC meets Notre Dame for the 80th time in the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football. It's the last game for USC's seniors in the sold-out 93,607-seat Coliseum. USC has won its last 6 games against the Fighting Irish. USC also has won 27 home night games in row, plus its last 10 non-conference games and last 12 non-conference home games. USC head coach Pete Carroll, college football's winningest active coach (85.0%), is 26-0 in November games at Troy. The game is a battle between the schools with perhaps the most glorious gridiron heritages. The winner gets year-long possession of the Shillelagh. The Trojans, coming off their third bye of 2008 following a win at Stanford, continue to be ranked high in the BCS standings and are in the thick of the race for a top BCS bowl berth. This is the 89th straight game that USC has been in the AP Top 25. The Trojans are trying to extend their streak of 6 consecutive seasons of AP Top 4 finishes, BCS bowl trips, Pac-10 titles and 11 wins. Troy is ranked in the Top 25 in almost every national offensive and defensive statistical category, including first in scoring defense, pass efficiency defense and pass defense and second in total defense. In fact, USC's scoring (8.3) and total (222.5) defense averages are its finest in 41 years and its pass defense (132.3) is its best in 31 years. USC has surrendered just 10 touchdowns in 2008. Standout Trojan defenders include Butkus Award candidates Rey Maualuga (a Lombardi Award and Nagurski Trophy finalist) and Brian Cushing at linebacker and 2007 All-American first teamer Taylor Mays at safety (he's a Thorpe Award semifinalist), plus Fili Moala at tackle and Kevin Ellison at safety. On offense, QB Mark Sanchez continues to be the Pac-10's passing efficiency and total offense leader. The Trojan running game is led by a trio of career 1,000-yard rushers: TBs Stafon Johnson, C.J. Gable and Joe McKnight. USC's leading receivers include WRs Patrick Turner (he is 11th among the school's career pass catchers and he has 8 TD grabs this year), Damian Williams and Ronald Johnson. Veteran OG-C Jeff Byers, an Academic All-American candidate in his second year in the M.B.A. program, and C Kristofer O'Dowd anchor the offensive line. Head coach Charlie Weis brings a Notre Dame team to the Coliseum that won 4 of its first 5 games of 2008, but has lost 4 of its past 6, including an upset at home by Syracuse last week. The Irish offense is directed by QB Jimmy Clausen, who already ranks in the Top 10 on the school's career pass completions, yards and TDs charts. TB Armando Allen is a multi-dimensional threat, chewing up yards as a runner, receiver and returner. Clausen's other favorite targets include WRs Golden Tate (who is also a dangerous return man) and Michael Floyd. ND's defense--featuring SS Kyle McCarthy, FS David Bruton and LB Maurice Crum Jr. (who ranks in the school's Top 10 in career tackles)--is especially tough against the pass. The game will be shown live nationally on ESPN.

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