Notre Dame stepped into the No. 1 position in the BCS after a 38-0 win over Wake Forest and losses by Kansas State and Oregon this past Saturday. The Irish have one final test before finishing the year undefeated with a trip to USC Saturday.
USC is going to struggle with Matt Barkley out with injury, but the Trojans have won this game with backups before. The Irish have historically stumbled against USC when the spotlight is placed on them with this year possibly bringing the same results.
The Irish will be tested in Los Angeles this weekend as it may finally be time for their luck to run out.
This won’t be the first time that an undefeated Notre Dame team is attempting to storm Los Angeles looking for a national title. In 1980 the Irish took an undefeated team into the Coliseum with a No. 2 ranking and lost to the Trojans 20-3.
Interestingly enough, Scott Tinsley earned the starting nod for USC in the game—Tinsley was the Trojans' backup quarterback from 1979-82. Tinsley only started six games in his career, with two of them coming against Notre Dame. Both of his starts against the Irish ended in wins.
Outside of the historical implications in this game, the Irish have yet to face an offense that is as dynamic as this Trojans attack.
Matt Barkley has been below expectations this season, but Marqise Lee and Robert Woods have put together amazing seasons for USC. Add to their production the balance that Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal provide, and Notre Dame will have fits on defense this Saturday.
Max Wittek will step in for Barkley and look to use the short passing game to chip away at the Notre Dame defense. Lee and Woods will also find a big play or two on Saturday, challenging the Irish with explosive plays on every down.
In limited action this season Wittek has completed 88 percent of his passes and thrown for a touchdown. He has only played in a handful of games, but he knows the Trojans offense and is talented enough to lead USC to a possible upset.
It helps that history appears to be on his side.
Looking at the Irish schedule, there is only one team with an offense that is better than No. 49 nationally. Oklahoma is ranked No. 11 in total offense nationally and only scored 13 points on the Irish.
The game was a 10-6 contest into the fourth quarter, but despite the low score, Landry Jones had one of his highest yardage games of the year. Jones finished with 356 passing yards in the game.
Will the Irish choke against USC?
The rushing attack was less impressive with Notre Dame holding them to only 15 net rushing yards, but Oklahoma has struggled with ground game success all year, only mounting the No. 54 rushing unit in the country this fall.
The Irish played a good offense in Oklahoma and got shredded through the air. Give the Trojans chances to make plays on the perimeter, and the stats will be just as gaudy for the USC offense, which ranks No. 27 in total offense, this weekend.
This will be a major test for Notre Dame as it takes on the pressure of the college football world when the Irish head to Los Angeles this weekend. It will be a tough win for the Irish to earn as they are attempting to avoid a flop from No. 1 in front of a national audience.