USC's eight-game reign of dominance ended with a 20-16 Notre Dame victory last November. The Trojans have won 11 of the series' last 15 after never defeating the Irish between 1983 and 1995.
Below is a closer look at the Irish and Trojans, and at the history of the Notre Dame/USC series…by the numbers.
0 – Players from the state of Indiana on the USC roster. There are 12 California natives on the Irish roster including 9 scholarship players: George and Josh Atkinson, Dayne Crist, Taylor Dever, Anthony McDonald, Troy Niklas, Cameron Roberson, Justin Utupo, and Cierre Wood. Two-year walk-on Matthew Mulvey is also a California native.
1 – Three-game set between the teams in which either squad won, lost, then returned with a victory in the third season (1963-64-65). Since that time frame, USC reeled of winning streaks (with ties intermixed) of six, three, five, three, and eight straight. The Irish returned the favor with a 13-season streak followed three years later by a three game run. In the modern era (since Ara Parseghian took over the Irish program in 1964), USC holds a slim 24-20-3 advantage.
2 – Teams (Alabama and Utah) that have allowed fewer rushing touchdowns than have the Irish this season (3). Two of the three scores allowed by Notre Dame's rush defense were by opposing quarterbacks including one fumble recovery. Over the last 15 games, only two running backs have registered rushing scores vs. the Irish: Navy's Gee Gee Greene in October 2010 and Air Force backup tailback Jon Lee, who scored with 33 seconds remaining in Week Six this season.
3 – Games between the Irish and Trojans decided by one touchdown or less since 1999. Both of the last two games came down to the final minute, with Notre Dame's defense securing a 20-16 win last season thanks to a goal line interception by Harrison Smith. In October 2009, USC forced three incomplete passes inside their 5-yard line to hold off the Irish, 34-27.
Previously, only the 2005 epic was played to the wire, the infamous "Bush Push" ending the contest, a 34-31 defeat (the win was later vacated by the Trojans due to NCAA penalty…though that changes nothing for those in attendance).
4 – Matchups over the previous 25 seasons in which neither team was ranked entering the contest: 2010, 2001, 1999, 1997, and 1986 marked the seasons, with both teams ranked on 14 occasions – both either #1 or #2 three different times. The only #1 vs. #2 matchup between the teams in that span took place in the regular season finale of 1988 when the top-ranked Irish defeated the No. 2 Trojans, 27-10 in Los Angeles.
Neither squad is ranked heading into Saturday's contest; the pair listed at #27 and #28 in "Others Receiving Votes" in the A.P. Poll (The Trojans are ineligible for the USA Today/Coach's Poll due to NCAA violations).
5 – Sacks allowed by the Irish offensive line this season, the 14th lowest total in the nation. Notre Dame quarterbacks attempted 237 passes (232 passes plus five sacks), suffering a take down on just 2.5 percent of those throws – the third lowest number in the FBS to date.
6 – Losses following a bye suffered by the Notre Dame program in its last 35 chances (29-6 dating back to 1984). Three of those losses occurred at the hands of the Trojans: 2009, 2005, and 2004; with Navy (2007), Florida State (1994), and Pittsburgh (1987) rounding out the sextet.
7 – Separate 100-yard receiving games produced by Irish wide receiver Michael Floyd in the 19-game Brian Kelly era. Floyd has three such outings this season and a program-record 16 in his Notre Dame career. USC sophomore wideout Robert Woods has six career 100-yard games including two this season. Woods has twice exceeded 200 yards receiving over the first 19 games of his Trojans career.
8 – Games in Notre Dame's last 11 matchups in which the defense has allowed one touchdown or less. Over that span dating back to October 23, only Navy (5), Miami (2), and Air Force (4), managed to breech the Irish end zone more than once. Navy's quintet of scores came in a crushing victory over the Irish while Miami's occurred after trailing 30-3 during the 4th Quarter. Two of Air Force's touchdowns were fourth quarter scores as well, the Irish leading 59-19 prior to the first of the pair.
9 – Touchdowns scored by the Irish in their last 10 trips to the opponents' red zone (the 10th visit ended with a field goal). Despite the recent string of success, Notre Dame ranks 105th in red zone efficiency this season, scoring just 18 times (16 TD) in 25 trips with an astounding six turnovers, including five inside the 10-yard line…four on first down.
10 – Wins in 13 games played under the lights by ex-Irish head coach, Ara Parseghian, the best winning percentage in a minimum of 10 prime time games in program history. Parseghian edged Lou Holtz (20-5-1) for the honor, though Dan Devine (5-0) never lost after dusk. Rounding out the program's efforts in prime time are Frank Leahy (1-0); Joe Kuharich (0-1); Terry Brennan (1-1); Kent Baer (0-1); Gerry Faust (4-2); Brian Kelly (4-2); Tyrone Willingham (5-2); Charlie Weis (9-7); and Bob Davie, at an alarming 2-9 (winning his first and his last)…
11 – Receptions by Irish wide receiver Michael Floyd in last year's contest vs. USC, the number marking the highest in the history of the series for either school. The game was Floyd's first vs. the Trojans; he missed both the 2008 and 2009 contest due to injury (knee and collarbone, respectively).
12 – Seasons since Notre Dame has been favored by more than one point entering its matchup with the Trojans. The Irish are 8.5 point favorites for Saturday's contest. Notre Dame was favored by one point in 2000 and the teams were marked as a "Pick ‘Em" in 2001. USC was favored each season from 2002 through 2010.
On the HorizonA look at Irish players who could reasonably accomplish statistical milestones Saturday night vs. the Trojans.
Michael Floyd: Few worlds remain to be conquered as Floyd holds career program records for receiving yards(3,178), receptions (224), touchdowns (32), and 100-yard receiving games (17). Floyd has averaged 88.3 yards per game over his 36 contests (35 starts) to date.
Ethan Johnson and Darius Fleming: With his next (full) sack, senior defensive end Johnson will move into 11th place ahead of the late Wally Kleine (13 sacks from 1983-86) on the program's career sack list. With 12.5 sacks to date, Johnson was passed by classmate Darius Fleming in the pair's dual-pursuit in Week Four at Pittsburgh; Fleming recorded two sacks vs. the Panthers and now has 14 in his career, 10th-best in program history. Up next for Fleming: mid-90s linebacker and NFL 10-year veteran Bert Berry, who recorded 16.5 for Lou Holtz's Irish from 1993-96.
Current New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck (2002-04) holds the program record with 24.5 sacks in 36 career games.
Harrison Smith: With 25 career pass breakups, Smith's next knock down will push him past former first-team All-America cornerback Shane Walton (also 25) for third place on the program's all-time list. Smith has an outside shot at setting the program record, currently owned by star cornerback Clarence Ellis, who broke up 32 passes from 1969-71, earning consensus All-America honors in his final season.
Tommy Rees: With a touchdown pass Saturday night, Rees will take over sole possession of third-place, passing program legend John Huarte with 12 consecutive games throwing at least one touchdown. Brady Quinn (2004-2005) holds the program record with 16 straight; Jimmy Clausen ranks No. 2 with TD passes in 13 straight games (2008-09)
Rees' career completion percentage (63.8) ranks first in program history. Rees has tossed 26 touchdowns in just over 10.5 games played. With his next touchdown pass, Rees will tie Steve Beuerlein (1983-86) and Terry Hanratty (1966-68) for eighth on the program's career list. Former Heisman Trophy winner Angelo Bertelli is next with 28.