When USC and Notre Dame square off this weekend, neither team will be putting their BCS National Championship hopes on the line. However, while neither the Trojans nor the Fighting Irish will factor in the BCS race, plenty of NFL draft prospects will be looking to boost their statuses on both sidelines.
Both USC and ND boast several future professionals, which makes their disappointing seasons that much more forgettable but also provides hope for the future.
With two likely first-round picks in defensive linemen Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt (if he decides to leave early), the Irish have yet another strong class that will be heading to the next level.
Imagine if Aaron Lynch hadn't left Notre Dame. Defensive line would by Lynch, Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt. All 3 are top 10 prospects.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) July 29, 2013
The Trojans have a potential first-round pick in wide receiver Marqise Lee. Just a junior, Lee wasn't off to the best season thanks to the slow start from the USC quarterbacks. Once the Trojan offense finally gained steam, Lee went down with a knee injury, though he told Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times that he expects to be 100 percent for this weekend.
Regardless of his rough start to the season, Lee is still the same receiver that was given the Biletnikoff Award last season after amassing 1,700 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.
Also, keep an eye on USC sophomore receiver Nelson Agholor. Once he becomes the Trojans' premier receiver, he'll catch the eye of NFL scouts in no time.
Meanwhile, USC also boasts a few talented defenders in Morgan Breslin, Devon Kennard and Dion Bailey. If Bailey, a junior, waits until next season, he could blossom into one of the top safety/linebacker hybrid prospects for 2015.
For 2014, Breslin will be a highly touted rush end/outside linebacker prospect, while Kennard will be fit a similar mold. Kennard is having a great season so far with 28 tackles, six tackles for a loss, four sacks, five hurries, three pass breakups and a fumble recovery. If he continues his strong campaign, the 6'3", 255-pound linebacker will see his stock rise.
Notre Dame also has a couple of intriguing linebacker prospects, Prince Shembo and Ishaq Williams. Shembo looks to be a late-round selection, while Williams has another year to build his stock.
ND has a talented defensive back in Bennett Jackson. At 6'0" and 195 pounds, Jackson is an excellent tackler and has the size to be a successful NFL corner. He will likely be one of the first corners taken in 2014.
A few potential future 1st-rounders on #ND who won't be in 2013 draft: DE Stephon Tuitt, DT Louis Nix, CB Bennett Jackson— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) January 8, 2013
Finally, both Notre Dame and USC have running backs that will likely be playing on Sundays at some point. ND's George Atkinson III is just a junior and will be one of the stronger mid- to late-round running backs for 2015.
Meanwhile, USC's Silas Redd will likely be off the board somewhere in the middle of the 2014 draft.
When it comes to draft prospects, Notre Dame and USC are oddly similar. Both have strength at the top and depth throughout on both sides of the ball.
However, it hasn't quite translated to a dominant season on the field with both schools sitting at 4-2 overall.
Even though the Trojans and the Irish won't be playing for a national title berth, some of the matchups on the field could be previews of battles that will take place on Sundays in the near future.