When their roads intersected last year in the regular season finale, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish sidestepped USC and went on to the national championship.
This year neither 4-2 team is in title contention, but that hasn’t diminished the near century-old rivalry between two of the most decorated college programs in history.
Notre Dame will host USC on Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium, with both teams seeking some midseason redemption. The Irish have taken two of the last three matchups, breaking the Trojan stranglehold on the rivalry. USC won eight straight from 2002 to 2009.
Brian Kelly and Notre Dame followed up their 35-21 home loss to Oklahoma by holding off Arizona State long enough for a 37-34 victory last week.
Interim Trojans head coach Ed Orgeron picked up his first win in a 38-31 shootout with Pac-12 rival Arizona, despite letting up 14 fourth quarter points. The two teams combined for 1,054 total offensive yards,
USC and Orgeron could put together back-to-back wins should top All-American receiver Marqise Lee make his return to the field from a knee injury. According to the L.A. Times, it is unclear if the school career receiving yards leader will come back after suffering the injury in the 62-41 debacle against Arizona State.
Sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler threw for a season-high 297 yards and two touchdowns against the Wildcats, and those numbers should jump even if Lee comes back at 50 percent health.
Trojans lead running back Tre Madden is also still battling a sore hamstring, and Orgeron is unsure of his status.
"We're not for certain there," Orgeron said to The Times. "But it's a long time till Saturday."
With their opponent’s No. 1 receiver and rusher ailing, Notre Dame could take quick advantage of the Trojans.
Notre Dame’s Tommy Rees went 17-for-38 for 279 yards, three touchdowns and a pick against the Sun Devils, but it was running back Cam McDaniel’s 32 rushing yards in the fourth quarter that set up Kyle Brindza’s 25-yard field goal, and a 14-yard interception return by senior linebacker Dan Fox that clinched the win.
Irish receiver T.J. Jones was two catches and four yards shy of eclipsing his season-highs with eight receptions for 135 yards and a score.
Fox is third on the team with 36 total tackles, and his heads up play was just the fifth interception this season for the Irish. Fox, along with Carlo Calabrese and team sack leaders Prince Shembo and Stephon Tuitt, are charged with holding off a USC squad known for coming out blazing in the first stanza. The Trojans have outscored opponents 38-7 in the first quarter this season, but have collapsed in the third with a 42-17 differential.
USC’s strength comes up front with pass rushers George Uko, Devon Kennard, and Morgan Breslin accounting for 4.0 sacks each. The Trojans are second in the Pac-12 with 19.0 team sacks.
Las Vegas Betting Odds: Notre Dame favored by 3 points
Over-Under: 50.5 points
Kickoff Time: 7:30 PM Eastern Time
Where To Watch Online: NBC Live Extra
TV Channel: NBC
Prediction: USC 33, Notre Dame 30