Lane Kiffin called this game Notre Dame's Super Bowl because it is coming off the Irish's bye week. He is also upset that the Irish announced it was a night game in March, somehow messing with USC's travel plans.
No, this isn't the '70s, when this annual intersectional matchup often had national title implications. Neither team is ranked, and USC won't even be able to play in a conference title game, let alone a bowl game, due to NCAA sanctions. But Kiffin has done what he can to inject some juice into this showdown, which will certainly make for an enhanced atmosphere under the lights of Notre Dame Stadium.
On the field, USC is the better team in the standings, at 5-1. But Notre Dame has the better personnel. This is a Trojans team that managed just a two-point season-opening home win against Minnesota, after all.
Did USC's defense turn a corner last week against Cal? A unit that gave up 40-plus points in consecutive weeks shut down the Golden Bears in a 30-9 victory. It remains to be seen, but one thing I'm certain of is USC's offense has the firepower to hang with the Irish.
I see this one similarly to the way I saw Notre Dame-Air Force -- to an extent. Both offenses are capable of exploding, but only the Irish's defense appears capable of making a stop when push comes to shove. And, for the second game in a row, I think the Irish jump to an early lead and never look back, leaving USC to play catch-up in another high-scoring affair.
No alleged flukes here. And no injury excuses, either, regardless of how much Marc Tyler can actually play, if at all. The Irish start a winning streak of their own against USC with their second win in as many years, and just maybe help restore this rivalry in the process.
Prediction: Notre Dame 35, USC 24