We're taking a look at the can't-miss games of the 2013 Pac-12 season. The Ultimate Road Trip continues.
Welcome to Week 8.
Saturday, Oct. 19
Utah at Arizona
Washington at Arizona State
USC at Notre Dame
UCLA at Stanford
Washington State at Oregon
Oregon State at California
My choice: USC at Notre Dame
Why: Tough decision this week trying to decide between a rematch of last year's Pac-12 title game or a nonconference meeting between rivals USC and Notre Dame. Washington at Arizona State is also very intriguing.
Ultimately -- since this is a road trip -- we're leaning toward a trip to South Bend, Indiana. We've been to Palo Alto once already (this will be our seventh city in eight weeks), and it's a foregone conclusion that we'll be back in the Bay again in Week 11, so in the interest of continuing to hit as many cities as possible while protecting the integrity of intriguing matchups, we head to Indiana. Plus, I've got a funny feeling we're going to see UCLA next week.
This is the second of three games that features Notre Dame versus the Pac-12. The Irish face ASU in Week 6 on neutral ground, and will close out the season at Stanford. This week, they play host under the lights to the Trojans.
Last year's matchup -- which Notre Dame won 22-13, thus punching its ticket to the BCS title game -- was a microcosm of everything that went wrong for the Trojans in 2012. Make a play, win a game. They didn't make a play. Make a stop, win a game. They didn't make a stop. The final six minutes make train wrecks look delightful. Let's relive it mentally, shall we?
1st and Goal at ND 2: USC penalty, 5-yard false start.
1st and Goal at ND 7: Curtis McNeal rush 3 yards.
2nd and Goal at ND 4: ND penalty, pass interference.
1st and Goal at ND 2: ND penalty, pass interference.
1st and Goal at ND 1: Max Wittek rush no gain.
2nd and goal at ND 1: Max Wittek rush no gain.
3rd and Goal at ND 1: Curtis McNeal rush for no gain.
4th and Goal at ND 1: Max Wittek pass incomplete to Soma Vainuku.
The execution was bad. The play-calling was bad. The clock management was bad. It was all just so bad, bad, bad. I would say it was the final insult on a downer of a year. If only we knew what was looming in the Sun Bowl.
But the Trojans have moved on from last season -- so they say. They have a revamped defense and a bad taste in their mouths that they are eager to Listerine away.
This game could help with that. Big time. This is a crucial game for USC if it hopes to rebuild its national reputation, which is damaged, but not irreparable. It's also one of those "must-win" games for USC coach Lane Kiffin, who finds himself on the hottest seat in all of college football heading into 2013.
The Arizona State game on Sept. 28 will be a challenge -- especially at Tempe. But all the other games up until this one should be considered winnable for the Trojans. They should be either 6-0, or at worst, 5-1 heading into this game, and enjoying a top 25 ranking. A victory on the road possibly clinches a bowl berth. But more importantly, it could secure Kiffin's job and remind the rest of the country that the Trojans were simply down last year, and not out.