In the crosshairs: Notre Dame

Overall record: 6-5
National rank: none
Last Week: defeated Army 27-3

Brian Kelly hasn’t been as fortunate as other first year coaches at Notre Dame. Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weis accumulated just three losses in each of their first seasons in South Bend, before those numbers increased in following years and shuffled them towards the door. But Kelly, who had much success at Cincinnati, leading the Bearcats to back-to-back Big East championships, hasn’t followed the pattern of his predecessors in his opening campaign.

The Domers will enter the Coliseum with an overall record of 6-5, and as winners of two straight. What earlier appeared as another miserable year taking shape, can be salvaged with a victory over its archrival Southern California, which would guarantee a team finish above .500 for only the second time since 2006.

USC has won eight straight in the series and 11 of the last 14, and Kelly said there’s one way to make it an even greater rivalry. “And that’s winning the football game,” Kelly said. “It’s not much of a rivalry until you get some balance in it.” WSBT

Here come the Irish

Category Nat. Rank Average
Total offense 58 385.73
Rush offense 98 118.45
Pass offense 27 267.27
Pass efficiency 53 131.61
Scoring offense 70 26.27
Total defense 55 361.55
Rush defense 62 153.36
Pass defense 51 208.18
Pass efficiency defense 30 116.91
Scoring defenses 33 20.91

Analysis: Tommy Rees is 2-0 as a starter, since stepping in for the injured Dayne Crist. He had full support of the defense in those two games, forcing 4 turnovers and holding Utah and Army to just six combined points. With the unit playing surprisingly well, Kelly was able to make-do with limited play calling to break in his 18-year old quarterback. He was also assisted by the environment, playing the first at the friendly confines of Notre Dame, and last week at neutral site Yankee Stadium. The true test comes this Saturday, as Rees and the Irish enter the hostile Los Angeles Coliseum for college football’s greatest intersectional rivalry.

USC has health problems of its own. By early indications, Mitch Mustain will be making his first start since going 8-0 with the Arkansas Razorbacks before a benching and eventual transfer. Barkley, who suffered a high ankle sprain against Oregon State last week, is being called a game time decision by Coach Lane Kiffin. More blurred for the Trojans is the tailback situation. Allen Bradford appears to have worked himself back into the coach’s doghouse, Dillon Baxter is newly reinstated after a rogue golf cart ride, and Marc Tyler’s respraining of a bothersome ankle leaves him doubtful for the start this weekend.

The rivalry in past years has been decided by the more overpowering offense, and the 2010 version should be more of the same.  Both programs have struggled defensively throughout the year, though both have also shown progress of late. This year’s winner will be the unit making the biggest plays—which could also translate to the unit forcing the less experienced hurler into making several bad ones.

All Time Series: Notre Dame leads 42-34-5
Streak: USC has won 7*
Last meeting: 2009 | USC 34, Notre Dame 27 (South Bend)
Line: USC -4

*2005 victory vacated

Fun Facts

  • The USC-Notre Dame rivalry has had a major impact on Irish coaches. Tyrone Willingham was terminated immediately after a 41-10 loss to the Trojans in 2004. Charlie Weis was rewarded with a contract extension in his first year, for a narrow 34-32 loss to No. 1 USC in what has come to be known as the “Bush push” game.
  • Saturday’s meeting will mark the first time since 2001 that both programs enter unranked.
  • The Irish are 1-6 against their biggest rivals in the last 7 games (Michigan, Michigan State, Navy, USC).
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~ by Anthony on November 25, 2010.

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