USC Football: How Cody Kessler Can Become a Trojan Legend vs. Notre Dame

Rick McMahanSenior Writer IOctober 15, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 10:  Quarterback Cody Kessler #6 of the USC Trojans throws a pass against the Arizona Wildcats at Los Angeles Coliseum on October 10, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The stage is set.

This Saturday is the time for young Trojan quarterback Cody Kessler to create his legacy in Trojan lore, and all it will take is a winning performance in South Bend against rival Notre Dame.

Piece of cake right?

Not really, but it is doable. If there really is a Trojan resurgence under new interim head coach Ed Orgeron, then it might even be a reality.

But it won't happen unless the improving but beleaguered Kessler plays the game of his life.

After taking over the signal-caller duties for the now-departed Matt Barkley, Kessler struggled mightily in his first four games, and after the Trojans lost 10-7 to Washington State at home, the cries of his detractors reached a crescendo.

Those complaints were magnified further because USC's defense was playing championship-caliber ball, and the ineptitude of the Kessler-led offense wasted an opportunity to return to elite status.

However, a strange thing happened when USC suffered their second loss to Arizona State.

This time, the loss wasn't because of a sorry offense, but rather, it was due to the Trojan defense which inexplicably lost its way.

Indeed, though he threw two interceptions (only one that was his fault), Kessler went 20-of-29 for 295 yards and two touchdowns, and although there was still room for improvement, USC put up 42 points in that losing cause.

Fast forward a week and half later, and the Trojans are now led by new coach—Ed Orgeron replaced Lane Kiffin—and the maturation of Cody Kessler continues.

Ushering in the "Orgeron Era," Kessler was more than serviceable in last Thursday's victory over Arizona, a game in which he went 15-of-30 (with several passes dropped) and 297 yards to go along with two more touchdowns.

Six games into the season, Kessler sports decent numbers—1129 yards, 60 percent passes completed and eight touchdowns against four interceptions—and is getting better with each game.

Now he faces his stiffest challenge yet: playing on the road at Notre Dame against an Irish team that would love nothing more than to kick some Trojan butt in order to right a disappointing 4-2 season of their own.

Can Kessler pull off the improbable and beat the Leprechauns in South Bend?

He can, but it will take a number of things to go his way, not the least of which would be the return of All-American wide receiver Marqise Lee.

Lee, who injured his knee in the Arizona State game, missed the Arizona game but has vowed to return against Notre Dame.

If he does and is effective, this will give Kessler two dynamic targets on the outside after Nelson Agholor's coming out party against Arizona where he caught seven passes for 161 yards and a touchdown.

Kessler will also need an inspired performance from his offensive line which has been inconsistent all season, a trait that does not bode well against an excellent defensive line for the Irish.

Still, if those things go right and USC can continue to effectively run the ball, the improbable just might occur this Saturday in South Bend.

And if that happens, Cody Kessler just might etch his name alongside others named Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley—USC quarterbacks who beat Notre Dame in recent Trojan history.

So there you go, Cody. It's an opportunity to write your name in the annals of Trojan lore.

Go get it, young man. Go get it.