Facing the No. 1 team in the country is never an easy task for any team, but third-year defensive coordinator Kent Baer said the Irish enjoy the challenge.
"I'm excited about playing them," said Baer when asked about playing the No. 1 team in the country. "I think our guys are excited about playing them. Hey, they're on the schedule, you've got to play them."
Not many people believe the Irish will have much of a chance to steal a win in the Coliseum. Baer says the key to winning is the entering the game with the right mindset.
"To me it's all about attitude," he said. "You have an attitude and you play great. We had that attitude when we played against Tennessee, Michigan and some of those teams. It's just a matter of how we go in and approach it."
As with most teams, Baer believes shutting down the run is the first thing the Irish defensive needs to do this weekend.
"If you allow them to run the football that opens up everything else," Baer said of the Trojan offense. "We've got to do a great job of defending the run--keeping the ball in front of us. They're going to get some throws. We've just got to make sure we're at the ball."
The Irish have been hurt by the Trojan passing game in the previous two games. The Trojans try to create mismatches with their tight ends and running backs, especially sophomore Reggie Bush. Baer said he expects USC to do the same in Saturday's game.
I don't know much we're going to be able to match up with them to be honest with you," said Baer when asked how his linebackers would match up with the Trojan tight ends and running backs.
"You've got to be smart how game plan where (Bush) is aligned and whether he's in the backfield or as wide receiver. These are the two best catching tight ends we've seen. We've just got to be careful how we match up. I try not to put our guys in tough situations like that."
Probably the most important thing for the Irish defense to do on Saturday is to make sure tackles. USC throws a lot of short passes and tackling will be vital to Notre Dame's success.
"Very important," said Baer when asked if tackling was a key in the game. "We fly around the football. We swarm and make plays. They're going to get some things here and there, but open field tackling is very important against a team like this."
Walker Could Set a Record
Irish freshman running back Darius Walker chose Notre Dame to play in these types of games. The Buford, Ga. native says he's excited about Saturday's game.
"It's definitely an added excitement," said Walker of the fact that USC is ranked No. 1 heading into Saturday's contest. "It's nice we're playing the No. 1 team, but it's also the next game so we try to stay focused on the task at hand."
We asked Walker if he thought he'd be playing in such a big game so early in his career.
"I don't know if I thought it about it too much," Walker said. "That definitely was something that I wanted to do. I love to play in the big games and this definitely as big as it gets. This is definitely something I've been looking forward to for awhile."
The freshman sensation needs just 77 yards to break the freshman single-season rushing record. Walker said he's excited about the opportunity, but only cares about winning on Saturday.
"I had heard that, I think it was 190 last game," said Walker when asked if he was aware of the record. "I really wasn't thinking about that too much as long as we got the win. I don't really need the record. As long as we can beat these guys down there, I'll be happy enough."
Walker did admit breaking the record would be special for him if it did happen.
"It's a possibility. It's definitely an exciting thing to come to this kind program and to even have an opportunity to break a record," said Walker. "It's definitely exciting for me, but like I said, the most important thing is winning."