UND and USC Get Ready for the 85th Rendition of The Great Rivalry

notre dame vs usc the helmets

Irish’s Carlisle to play against his former team that night

BY:Jeff Schneberk
@Game7overtime

The University of Southern California and Notre Dame Fighting Irish are getting ready for the 85th time the two teams will meet in what is the greatest intersectional rivalry in US College football.

Adding to the competition is that both teams have identical records of 4-2.

The Trojans have lost just twice to the Irish in the past 11 meetings, but both of those losses came in the past three seasons. Trojan teams with two or more losses on their record rarely fare well at Notre Dame.

After a well deserved week off, this bye week came at a perfect time for Notre Dame, as the Irish are coming off two straight close, emotional games against good competition (loss to the Sooners, win over the Sun Devils). They’ll need to bring the emotion again this weekend, so I like the fact that they get to recharge their batteries for the Trojans on the 19th.

The University of Southern California has seen its share of turmoil this season, asides from the firing of Lane Kiffin as the Head Coach, the two teams share the same record, and USC is not the same force to be reckoned with this year as they usually are. For some reason however, when the two meet, the games are usually close but at least this time around Irish fans don’t need to worry about any big name players (one year, USC had to play backup Mitch Mustain because Matt Barkley wasn’t 100%).

There’s no more Barkley to worry about this year, now it’s 6-Cody Kessler, a 6’1” sophomore from Bakersfield, who is coming off a win over Arizona this past Thursday night.

This weekend’s game will also be USC’s first with new coach Ed Ergeron against Brian Kelly and the Irish for the first time. Only two USC coaches have won their debut games against the Irish.

Here is a look at how the two teams compare:

THE BREAKDOWN

USC Leaders
Passing: Kessler 81/134 completion, 1,129 yards, 8TDs
Rushing: Madden 115 carries, 611 yards, 3 TDs
Receiving: Lee 30 receptions, 385 yards, 1TD
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Other USC playmakers to keep an eye out for include: 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 strong 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.

Notre Dame Leaders
Passing: Rees 105/203 completions, 1,494 yards, 13TDs
Rushing: Atkinson III 56 carries, 323 yards, 2TDs
Receiving: Jones 33 receptions, 481 yards, 4 TDs

little notre-dame-vs-temple-footballhelmet

The Irish offense is guided by senior QB Tommy Rees, who ranks in the school’s career TD passes, completions, and the ND 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.

Fellow WR 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

Notre Dame is 4-2 at the halfway point and just outside of the national rankings; not exactly where they envisioned themselves at this point. The good news is that after playing a very tough first half schedule which included games at Michigan (L), hosting Oklahoma (L), and a neutral site contest against Arizona State(W), the Irish will get a bit of a breather for the final six.

ND was an underdog in all three of the games I mentioned, and while it certainly does not guarantee victory, they will be favored in every game the rest of the way until they visit Stanford to close the season. As rough as this season has been at times, a BCS bowl is still not out of the question.

Game notes:

In last year’s meeting at the LA Coliseum, Notre Dame made off with a 22-13 win, that solidified their ranking as #1 in the country and put them into the BCS Championship game vs. Alabama.

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Then-Irish RB Theo Riddick rushed for 146 yards and a TD and current Irish kicker Kyle Brindza booted five FGs to lead the charge.

USC has not lost at South Bend since 2001 (pre-Brady Quinn days).
This 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 and this weekend’s matchup will be the second Trojan night game ever at Notre Dame Stadium, the first being in 2001

The game, in sold-out Notre Dame Stadium (the 237th consecutive sellout), will be shown live nationally on NBC-TV.

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@Game7overtime

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