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Irish shoot for undefetated season

Published November 24. 2012 09:02AM

Notre Dame finally dominated a team from start to finish and coasted to an easy win last Saturday. The win over Wake Forest, 38-0, also had the Irish playing its best home game of the year.

With the surprising upsets of both Kansas State and Oregon last week Notre Dame is ranked number one this week in both the AP and coaches' poll as well as being on top of the BCS standings. It is the first time in 19 years that ND is ranked number one by the AP. It is also the first time since the BCS began that ND is on top.

All that said, today the Irish try to complete a unbelievable turnaround season by going 12-0 and gaining a place in the national championship game against likely opponent, Alabama.

However, today the Irish play the Southern California Trojans, who have stopped ND's quest for a national title in the past, as well as ND stopping USC in the past for a national title.

ND's defense held Wake to 209 total yards, the fewest allowed all season. Wake's longest play was a 16-yard pass from quarterback Tanner Price to Michael Campanaro, the nation's seventh-leading receiver.

With the shutout the Irish defense has allowed the fewest points 11 games into the season, which matched the 1980 Irish.

The Irish offense was in high gear led by Quarterback Everett Golson. Golson won his ninth start in nine tries and joins Kevin McDougal and Frank Tripucka and trails only Bob Williams, for the most consecutive wins. Williams has 11.

Golson finished 20 of 30 for a career-high 346 yards passing and three touchdowns with one interception. Junior Tommy Rees got some playing time coming in with 7:14 left in the third quarter. He was followed by Junior Andrew Hendrix and walk-on Charlie Fiessinger.

The rout gave head coach Brian Kelly a chance to get a lot of players into the game, especially the seniors.

More on the game later.

ND and USC have played some memorable games over the years. As I mentioned before, there were many games in the series in which both teams entered ranked in the top 20 or one team headed for a national title. Both suffered losses to the other in their quests for a national title.

USC has stopped ND's national title hopes three times, in 1964, 1970 and 1980, while ND returned the favor in 1966 and 1988, both championship years for the Irish.

The Trojans enter the game at 7-4 and somewhat of a disappointment to their fans. USC was ranked number one in the nation in the first AP preseason poll. That ranking ended with the third game loss to Stanford, 21-14. USC wins have been over Hawaii, 49-10; Syracuse, 42-29; California, 27-9; Utah, 38-28; Washington, 24-14; Colorado, 50-6; and Arizona State, 38-17. The other losses have been to Arizona, 39-36; Oregon, 62-51; and UCLA last week, 38-28.

As you probably read the Trojans' excellent QB Matt Barkley was injured last week near the end of the UCLA game and will not play today due to a right shoulder strain, is throwing arm. He will be replaced by freshman Max Wittek, who has completed just eight of nine passes for 95 yards this season in backing up Barkley. However, Wittek has a rifle arm which should scare the Irish questionable pass defense.

Top rushers are Silas Reed with 764 yards on 138 carries and nine touchdowns and Curtis McNeal 104-676-two TDs. Top receiver is Marqise Lee with 107 catches for 1,605 yards and 14 TDs; and Robert Woods, 66-721-10.

ND leads the series, 43-35-5. It has been a series of streaks. From 2002-09 USC won eight in a row. From 1983-93, ND won 11 in a row. USC won last year, 31-17. ND broke the USC streak in 2010, 26-16. However, USC has won 10 of the last 11 between the schools.

The game will be televised nationally by ABC-TV with a 8:10 p.m. kickoff.

IRISH NOTES:Cierre Wood had an outstanding week last week. He had 150 yards on 11 rushes and a TD. It may have been his last game at ND stadium. He entered the game 10th all-time with 2,275 yards and passed Randy Kinder, who had 2,295. Wood is a senior but has another year of eligibility left. He has not decided if he will asked for a fifth year....Some other games stats. Theo Riddick has six carries for 20 yards and George Atkinson III, seven for 34 and a score. Receiving had TJ Jones with six catches for 97 yards and a score and Tyler Eifert six for 85 and a score. Riddick also had three catches for 58 yards. Defensively Carlo Calabrese and Louis Nix each had seven tackles with Manti Te'o getting six....Kyle Brindza hit one of two field goals, 25 yards; but missed a 40 yarder....The Irish continue to be a big TV draw. On NBC the Irish seasonal rating is 4.4 million per game, up 69 percent from a year ago. Three games, Michigan, Pitt and Stanford, each average over six million viewers. The other games on ABC, except Navy, average 6.47 million viewers....Most coaches, probably 99.9 percent, tell their players not to say anything that will inspire the opposing team. USC freshman QB Max Wittek gave Kelly and his staff something to feed the Irish players. Wittek "guaranteed" a USC win tonight. He told the media earlier this week, "We're gonna win this ballgame." I suspect Kelly and his staff has posted that comment everywhere the team can see it....ND is in its 90th cycle at No. 1 since the AP poll started in 1936. Should ND win tonight and remain No. 1, they would pull into a tie with Oklahoma for the most weeks at No. 1 all-time....ND is on the front of Sports Illustrated this week. That usually means bad luck for any team or person who gets on the cover. The bookies must know something too. Despite the fact USC is playing without their starting QB, ND is only a five and a half point favorite....This is the last column until ND's bowl game....In my preseason picks I had USC winning tonight. Losing QB Barkley is a major blow for the Trojans but they have great athletes and players that match up with the Irish. I rate this a toss up with a slight advantage to USC as the home team. Sorry Irish fans but I don't have a good feeling for this game.

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