Irish ready for rival USC

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- This is a rivalry week for Notre Dame, in case you were wondering. That much was confirmed Tuesday by coach Brian Kelly, who, one may argue, has been hesitant to define a game as such in the lead-up to it.

"I think it's on the other side — in other words, other teams really calling it their rivalry game," Kelly said during his weekly press conference. "I think our players would be the first ones to admit that this is our rivalry game, this is our game that we look forward to, against USC. It's one that's on our calendars as -- I don't want to say 'red letter game,' but one that we really look forward to.

"Such a great matchup, great tradition, great history, and it's part of the history of Notre Dame football that they really recognize as that one singular game."

In other words, Michigan -- which Kelly downplayed earlier this year as a big Irish rival -- has Ohio State. Notre Dame and USC have each other.

And even though the Trojans had won eight in a row and nine of 10 against the Irish going into last year's regular-season finale, Kelly knows a potential third Notre Dame win over USC in his four-year tenure this Saturday can help balance things out between the programs each season.

"I think we're past that," Kelly said. "We would hope that both programs are competing each and every year for BCS bowls and playoff opportunities, and I think that's where both programs want to be, that they're on equal footing, they're not waiting three, four years to get a win. And I think both programs are looking forward to those days where it's a great matchup year-in and year-out."