Despite quarterback Matt Barkley out with a shoulder injury, USC backup quarterback Max Wittek has guaranteed the Trojans a victory Saturday over No. 1 ranked Notre Dame at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The Fighting Irish are 11-0 for the first time since 1989 and can earn a national title game berth with a win over rival USC. Notre Dame would face No. 4 Alabama for the title with a victory this weekend.
Notre Dame have shocked the country with perhaps the nation's best defense. Led by senior linebacker and Heisman candidate Manti Te’o, Notre Dame has let up only 10.1 points per game, are sixth in total yards allowed, and fifth in rushing.
After surviving a 29-26 triple-overtime marathon against Pittsburgh, the Irish continued their unbeaten streak -- allowing just six points to Boston College, and shutin out Wake Forest on Saturday. Notre Dame totaled 584 yards against the Demon Deacons, and quarterback Everett Golson threw for three touchdowns and 346 yards, while running back Cierre Wood rushed for 150 yards, with most coming on his 68-yard touchdown burst in the first quarter.
The Trojans were supposed to have the season Notre Dame is having this year, but the season took bad turn for USC. Lake Kiffin's squad have lost three of their lost four games, including last week’s 38-28 loss to UCLA for the Pac-12 South title.
Barkley returned for his senior year rather than entering the 2012 NFL Draft so that he could lead the Trojans to a national title, but instead has been overshadowed by wide receiver Marquis Lee. The sophomore has 107 catches for a nation-leading 1,605 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Last week against the Bruins, Lee snagged nine catches for 158 yards and a touchdown, but USC’s three turnovers ultimately decided the game.
Lee will have to adjust to a new quaterback. A redshirt freshman, Wittek has completed 8-of-9 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. It will be his first ever college football start, and it comes under the national spotlight.
Wittek does have history on his side. The Trojans have won nine out of the their last 10 meetings against Notre Dame. The Irish last won in 2010.
Prediction: Wittek will have difficulty against Te'o and the Irish defense, but Lee will make enough plays to keep USC in the game. Still, as long as Golson avoids turnovers, Notre Dame should win a very tight game.
Predicted Score: Notre Dame 24, USC 17