The 11-0 Notre Dame Fighting Irish have just one game left on their schedule to finish the season undefeated and have a likely date with destiny in the BCS National Championship Game.
However, before they can start prepping for the big one, the Irish need to thoroughly dispatch of the USC Trojans and rightfully claim their regular-season title.
Let’s take a look at some players to keep an eye on who will be instrumental in beating this feisty Southern Cal squad.
Manti Te’o, LB
The Heisman candidate is the heart and soul of the Irish defense. He has been on the field for almost every down and seemingly makes a play on each ball that gets snapped by the opposing offense.
As long as the senior superstar linebacker is on the gridiron, he’s a matchup nightmare for opposing QBs, running backs and anyone else that Te’o may be looking to run down.
He’s going to be a terror in the USC passing game and signal-caller Matt Barkley (or whoever Lane Kiffin puts out under center due to injury) is going to have a tough time sneaking short passes by the Hawaii native.
If Te’o delivers another Heisman performance, he’s going to help the Irish remain undefeated and lead them to the title game.
Bennett Jackson, CB
While the ND corners don’t get a lot of credit for the defense’s success, Jackson has done a decent job of keeping opposing receivers contained.
He’s going to have his hands full when he lines up across from WR Marqise Lee in the Coliseum next week.
Lee, another Heisman candidate, has recorded 107 receptions for 1,605 yards and 14 touchdowns during the 2012 campaign. The sophomore speedster has been an absolute machine and one of the toughest wideouts to contain in the country.
If Jackson can’t stick with him, it’s going to be a long day for the Notre Dame defense.
Everett Golson, QB
The redshirt freshman wasn’t sure he earned the starting job a few games into the season, but after leading this squad to an 11-0 record, coach Brian Kelly would be crazy to consider anyone else.
Golson’s not going to wow you with eyepopping numbers (he's completed 151 of 256 passes for 1,918 yards and 11 touchdowns, with five interceptions. He’s also run 80 times for 258 yards and five scores), but he’s a solid game manager that gets it done when it counts.
While USC doesn’t possess the most fearsome defense, he’s going to have a tougher time against them than he did versus the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in Week 12.
As long as Golson keeps his turnover number down, the Irish offense will be fine.