On Saturday night, Max Wittek will lead the 7-4 Trojans against the No. 1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who are ranked No. 1 for the first time in BCS History.
Meanwhile, USC has its own slew of issues on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Where has Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard been all season? Why is a defense that was strong last season, getting exposed with basically the same lineup? Finally, how will redshirt freshman Max Wittek play in his first start?
This game will give Trojan fans hope about the future of their program. For one, Max Wittek has a cannon for an arm, and is definitely capable of leading the Trojans to victory. As long as the football gets equally distributed and does not become the Marqise Lee Show, the Trojans will score points and hold on to the football.
Let’s remember, for all the talk of Manti Te’o and the elite Notre Dame front seven get, the back four have been exposed this season by quality offenses, as Landry Jones threw for 356 yards. After checking out Wittek at practice, there are many similar qualities between he and Jones.
Notre Dame allows 195 passing yards per game, which is strong, but they have not faced multiple elite quarterbacks this season. A combination of an independent schedule and facing traditional powerhouses on down years has made life relatively easy in the passing department for the Golden Domers.
Marqise Lee, Robert Woods and Nelson Agholor are some of the fastest receivers in the nation and Notre Dame will not have the answers to slow down these weapons. As long as Wittek distributes the football and uses his tight ends and backs effectively, he can be able to turn this game into a shootout.
On defense, the Trojans will once again have their hands full with dual-threat option Everett Golson. Golson has rushed for 25 yards per game while throwing for 191 yards. What makes Golson a dangerous weapon is his ability to stretch plays with his feet and find his favorite target, Tyler Eifert down field.
Like Joseph Fauria from UCLA, Eifert is an elite tight end that uses his 6-foot-6 frame to shield off defenders and make outstanding plays. Monte Kiffin’s cover two defense exposes the deep 20-yard corner route consistently, as expect Golson to look for Eifert on that route to convert huge third downs.
The Notre Dame rushing attack is pro-style featuring heavy hitting back, senior Theo Riddick. Riddick packs a punch with his 200-pound frame, and will challenge the heart of the USC defense.
The Notre Dame offense is not elite, but looks to capitalize on great field position and their outstanding intangibles, in Golson and Eifert to make big plays.
If the Domers consistently move the football, Monte Kiffin’s scheme must be put on the hot seat more than it already is. Possible candidates like Jack Del Rio and Derek Mason will likely be receiving calls this offseason.
College Gameday will be at the Coliseum for what should be a bittersweet game for the Trojans and a tremendous chance to restore history for the Irish. Expect a motivated Notre Dame, while the Trojans are a mystery when it comes to what type of motivation they will be playing with.
Matt Barkley has had a tremendous career at USC, but his lack of confidence near the end of the season due to his terrible decision making has had a negative impact on this team. Wittek brings the future, and a change from ‘Unfinished Business’ to ‘New Business’. What a better way to begin than against a top-five national defense, robbing them of a chance to play in the National Championship.
The Trojans have always responded well under less scrutiny and expectations and this matchup supplies the Trojans the opportunity to prove pundits wrong. Rallying around the effort to keep head coach Lane Kiffin’s job, whether warranted or not, should give this lifeless team a reason to play with fire.
Regardless of the result, the Trojans will learn much about their upcoming future from the outcome of this game on both sides of the ball. Is Wittek the guy that can carry this team to a national championship and can the Kiffin’s move forward in leadership roles at USC?
If a chance to push into 2013 with a positive outlook on offense is not enough motivation, the Trojans are playing their biggest rival, Notre Dame. Expect a great game between these historic rivals.