Notre Dame vs. USC: How Trojans Can Pull Upset over No. 1 Fighting Irish

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistNovember 23, 2012

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 22:  Members of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish defense line up against the offense of the University of Southern California Trojans at Notre Dame Stadium on October 22, 2011 in South Bend, Indiana. USC defeated Notre Dame 31-17.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Notre Dame fans around the country are hoping to see the Fighting Irish handily defeat USC and earn a spot in the 2013 BCS Championship Game. Pretty much everyone else is rooting for the opposite.

This rivalry game will likely be the most viewed college football game of the weekend, with fans nationwide trying to get a grasp of the title picture.

Of course, the chances of a Notre Dame loss are not great. The Trojans have lost three of four games and will be without starting quarterback Matt Barkley.

Still, this team can still pull the upset if it does the following. 


Win the Turnover Battle

This could very well be the deciding factor in the game. In games where Notre Dame has struggled, turnovers have been the reason why.

The Irish fumbled three times in their dicey overtime win against Stanford. They also had three turnovers when Pittsburgh was able to take them to triple overtime.

Notre Dame starting quarterback Everett Golson has struggled with ball security at times, and the Trojans must force these types of plays to keep the points off the scoreboard.

On the other side, interceptions have been a big reason for USC's struggles towards the end of this year. USC quarterback Matt Barkley has thrown nine picks in the last four games and has six multi-interception games this season.

Although USC freshman quarterback Max Wittek has little experience, if he can avoid turnovers, his team has a shot at coming out on top. 


Run the Ball

It is hard to believe that Wittek, making his first collegiate start under center, will beat the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation all by himself. 

While the Trojans boast plenty of talent at receiver, the team's running backs are fully capable of having big games against this defense.

Both Stanford's Stepfan Taylor and Pittsburgh's Ray Graham were able to rush for over 100 yards against the Irish, so this defense is not infallible.

Curtis McNeal has been red hot lately with back-to-back game over 160 rushing yards. He should get over 20 touches on Saturday, while the bigger Silas Redd should have his opportunities as well. 

The two backs should be able to combine for a big day as they help move the chains.


Keep Confidence

This is not an easy task considering USC's current slide. However, it is vital to be in the right frame of mind heading into this tough game.

Wittek started things off by saying in a radio interview that he was going to lead the team to a win on Saturday. He told 710 ESPN Radio (via Pedro Moura of ESPN): 

I'm gonna go out there, I'm gonna play within myself, within the system, and we're gonna win this ballgame. 

I've been ready all season for this to happen -- if it did. Obviously the circumstances aren't the greatest with such a great quarterback being hurt, but I've been ready for this all year.

The rest of the team must has to feel good about Wittek's confidence, and the fact that USC has won nine of the last 10 games in this rivalry.

With the home crowd behind them, the Trojans need to get out to an early lead and put the pressure on their opponent. If they do that, this high-powered offense has what it takes to pull off the upset on the No. 1 team in the country.