Against UCLA: USC started off slow, going down 24-0 halfway through the second quarter.
What that means for Notre Dame: Despite UCLA being ranked ahead of the Trojans for the first time in years, despite all the pundits shouting “Upset Alert!” at the top of their lungs, despite the crosstown rivalry, the Pac-12 Championship and the Rose Bowl being on the line…USC looked flat, unprepared and uninterested for much of the first half.
It was a disappointing response to a Bruin team that called out USC and made it their mission to take back LA. It was a failure of leadership at every level for the Trojans to stand there and let that happen. And it will have repercussions next season.
The big question is what kind of effect it will have on Saturday. On the one hand, this Trojan team is demoralized, going from the top team in the country to an unranked, four-loss squad. On the other hand, they have the unique opportunity to regain some pride by spoiling the championship hopes of their greatest rival – the top ranked, undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
There are many story lines for USC moving from one rivalry week to another, but the biggest is finding out how much fight the Trojans have left in them.