Why USC Is Absolutely Capable of Taking Down Notre Dame, Even Without Barkley

Lisa Horne@LisaHornePac-12 and Big 12 Lead WriterNovember 20, 2012

It all ends, or starts, for both Notre Dame and USC this Saturday.

No. 1 Notre Dame has a BCS championship on the line while USC has pride and a lower-tiered bowl on the line. Can USC pull off the upset of the year?

Why yes, yes it can.

Notre Dame's offense isn't as prolific as Oregon's offense (or either one of those Arizona teams) but facing USC's sieve-like defense might increase its average score of 27.2 points per game. Scratch that, it will score more than 27 points.

But the team that scores the most points wins, and USC is capable of scoring a lot of points—it averages over 36 points per game. The problem for USC is that it faces the No. 1 scoring defense in the country—the Irish yield an average of only 10.1 points per game.

Notre Dame shut down the Oklahoma Sooners' No. 9 scoring offense fairly easily winning 30-13. And while that game was nationally televised, this game at USC will be watched by everybody. Yes, even SEC fans will be watching with intense interest. 

No pressure, no pressure at all. 

USC really has no reason to play conservatively, while Notre Dame does. The Fighting Irish will be careful in not making any mistakes. And the USC Trojans?

They'll be a loose cannon. 

With starting quarterback Matt Barkley out (shoulder), Max Wittek will be under center. The redshirt freshman will no doubt be playing with a very vanilla playbook at his disposal, but he also has no fear in looking deep for the big play before working the sidelines and the middle of the field.

He's got the arm to sling it out to Marqise Lee streaking down field. And Marqise Lee has the speed to burn the Irish's cornerbacks. The only question is whether or not Wittek will have enough time to throw the ball with Manti Te'o and Stephon Tuitt breathing down his neck. 

If Wittek can get enough time to heave that ball, we'll go ahead and start the nickname game for him: "Mad Max". And he will be playing out of his mind because nothing is on the line here but giving USC fans something to cheer about. It's all about the schadenfreude.  

Notre Dame should win this game—it is currently a six-point favorite. Six points. That's it?

The Trojans have nothing to lose with a quarterback who's only thrown nine passes in his collegiate career. No one expects him to do well, so there isn't as much pressure on him as there is on Everett Golson, the dual-threat quarterback for Notre Dame. The pressure on Notre Dame is excruciatingly high, and in college football, strange things happen at the most unexpected moments when it's do-or-die time. 

Stanford pulled the upset of the year in 2007 when it beat USC 24-23, taking the Trojans out of the BCS National Championship Game. USC upset No. 4 Oregon last year at Autzen, and that loss took the Ducks out of the BCS championship conversation. 

We're ripe for more BCS chaos, aren't we?

Go ahead and count on this year's rivalry game between USC and Notre Dame having some sort of controversy. So far in 2012, the Irish have had controversial calls go in their favor. It's the luck of the Irish.

But seven years ago the Bush Push game happened. Lucky number seven. That's the jersey number of Matt Barkley, who will be watching the game (presumably) from the sidelines.

Seven. That's also the antithesis of Max Wittek's jersey number (13).

It's just a play on numbers, but if you believe in the luck of the Irish—and most Notre Dame fans do embrace its legend and lore—it's a tad unsettling for Trojan fans that the Irish will be facing No. 13, not No. 7, in the most important game of the season.


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