The USC Trojans look for their second straight road win and third straight win overall on Saturday against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. USC has revenge on its mind after having their eight-game winning streak over Notre Dame snapped last season in Los Angeles, but it doesn't take much extra motivation to get excited about a rivalry game.
"For all our players, coaches and certainly our fans, Notre Dame is always a special game," Trojans athletic director Pat Haden told Jordan Moore of USCTrojans.com on Friday. "They are a program that is definitely getting better. I sense they are rising and we need to keep pace, and maintain the dominance that we have had over them in recent years. I will always evaluate separately how we play against UCLA and Notre Dame. That will always be important to me."
The Trojans are 5-1 but have also been sloppy at times. USC has allowed 271.7 pass yards per game, and nobody has allowed more first downs through the air through six games than the 92 given up by the Trojans. Quarterback Tommy Rees and the Irish have averaged 273.5 passing yards per game, but that's not all USC has to account for. Notre Dame has averaged 194 yards on the ground this season, including 245 rushing yards per contest in their last three wins, over Pittsburgh, Purdue, and Air Force.
Junior Cierre Wood leads Notre Dame in rushing with 650 yards on 113 carries, averaging 5.8 yards per rush. Wood has more yards than the Trojans' top two rushers, Marc Tyler and Curtis McNeal, combined. Fellow Notre Dame running back Jonas Gray has added 395 yards and four scores himself, averaging 8.4 yards per clip.
Tyler dislocated his shoulder in Thursday's win over California, so the Trojans will have to rely on McNeal and some other seldom-used options at tailback. Freshman D.J. Morgan carried 18 times in the opening game of the season, but has just 12 carries in five games since. Dillon Baxter has carried the ball just eight times all season, and USC even turned to freshman wide receiver and speed burner George Farmer for four rushing attempts against Cal.
Whomever carries the ball for the Trojans, they need to establish the run to open up things for their passing game, which was stagnant against Cal. Quarterback Matt Barkleyent down with an injury, Cal was able to focus on Robert Woods, who caught just five passes for 36 yards, his lowest output of the season.
Barkley was injured in last season's loss to Notre Dame, but passed for 380 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman in 2009 at South Bend. USC has beaten Notre Dame in each of their last four trips to South Bend.
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