There's nothing scarier than a redshirt freshman quarterback making his first college start for a team with nothing to lose. At least nothing scarier for Notre Dame this Saturday night.
On Saturday night in Los Angeles, USC backup quarterback Max Wittek will get his chance to lead the struggling Trojans to their biggest win of the year in his first career start against the undefeated, No. 1-ranked Fighting Irish.
How's that for pressure to perform?
But if there's any backup redshirt freshman in America who is best suited for Saturday night's scenario, it's Max Wittek. The 6'4" signal-caller's strong arm, poise under pressure and gun-slinger mentality caught the eyes of scouts in high school, and it's why Lane Kiffin and the Trojans are calling upon him to lead them this weekend.
But before you go penciling Notre Dame into the BCS National Championship Game, remember that the Trojans and their ambitious young quarterback have nothing to lose this weekend, as well as some other factors in their corner.
For as great as Notre Dame's defense has been all season long, it's hardly invincible, especially in the secondary.
The Fighting Irish rank just 24th nationally in terms of fewest passing yards allowed per game. The Irish's secondary is giving up a tad more than 195 yards through the air per Saturday this fall, but it has held its first 11 opponents to a combined six passing touchdowns all year.
While running the ball on Notre Dame's front seven is nearly impossible (two rushing touchdowns allowed in 11 games), throwing on its secondary is not.
The Irish have given up a combined 611 passing yards in their last two road games—against Boston College and Oklahoma. But neither of those teams possess the game-breaking wide receiving talent that USC does.
Max Wittek won't have to do it alone. He will have his fair share of offensive weapons to choose from on Saturday night.
In addition to dynamic wide receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, running backs Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal will both provide Wittek with playmaking options out of the backfield. Lee and Woods have combined for 2,326 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns this season, while Redd and McNeal have nearly surpassed 1,400 yards rushing combined.
Regardless of what direction Wittek looks in on Saturday night, he's sure to find a playmaker capable of turning an ordinary play into a spectacular one.
As long as Wittek can get the ball to his playmakers, then USC will be in business and Notre Dame will be in trouble. Confidence is huge for a quarterback, and if a talented player like Wittek can get himself going early, he'll quickly settle down and get locked in on leading the Trojans to a college football landscape-altering upset victory.
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