Notre Dame football blew up while USC football deflated (no pun intended) in 2012.
Did anyone see this coming?
How did a team that was ranked No. 1 in the preseason fall to 7-4 and out of the BCS standings while another team that wasn't even ranked in the preseason was able to claw its way up to No. 1 ahead of all those SEC teams?
How did USC quarterback Matt Barkley, a preseason Heisman favorite after eschewing the 2012 NFL Draft and coming back for some "unfinished business," fall out of the Heisman race while a defensive player from Notre Dame in Manti Te'o became a legitimate Heisman candidate?
It's an amazing story and most likely will be made into another Rudy-esque movie, but the script hasn't been finalized.
Trojan quarterback Max Wittek may be the one man that could thicken the plot and crush No. 1 Notre Dame's (11-0) early-January Miami Gardens vacation plans.
Wittek has never started a collegiate game, but this is one helluva game in which to start.
Wittek has the unenviable—or enviable if you root for Notre Dame—task of shouldering the burden of a USC team that has been now reduced to playing spoiler. If USC can beat Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish will have to take their talents to a BCS bowl that doesn't have a crystal ball as its trophy.
There is plenty of respect between these two teams, but there is also no love lost. Notre Dame will be gunning for the redshirt freshman quarterback from Newport Beach, CA.
Wittek's entire career at USC can be summed up with these stats: 8-of-9 for 95 yards and one touchdown. He's also been sacked once.
Wittek's varsity numbers are very impressive. At Mater Dei High School, Wittek threw for 4,410 yards and 39 touchdowns.
Brandon Huffman, a national recruiting analyst for scout.com, gave his scouting report on Wittek's senior year at Mater Dei.
He has tremendous vision and always wants to make the big play before checking down to his shorter routes. He has a quick release and a strong arm. He struggles with accuracy at times, but shows poise under pressure and a willingness to hang in the pocket and take a hit. A gun-slinger mentality, Wittek likes the high risk, high reward throws.
Unfortunately for Wittek, linebacker Manti Te'o likes those high-risk throws as well. The senior linebacker is exceptional in pass defense with six interceptions this season.
Who wins? USC or Notre Dame?
Nobody expects USC to win this game. The Trojan defense is full of blue chip talent that has somehow floundered under Monte Kiffin's genius, surrendering over 392 yards per game.
But USC's offense, despite its moments of sputtering and moments of brilliance throughout this season, is still a threat to Notre Dame's secondary.
Wittek has two of the best receivers in the country in his arsenal of weapons: Marqise Lee and Robert Woods. If Wittek can withstand the pass rush and make big plays, USC may be able to stay with Notre Dame and make the game interesting.
Max Wittek could end USC's disappointing season on a high note.
Taking Notre Dame out of the BCS title game and possibly elevating Marqise Lee's Heisman hopes in a span of three hours would be another great chapter for one of the country's greatest intersectional rivalries.
Mr. Wittek, your baptism by fire awaits.