News and Notes: 10/11/2005

*Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis rattled off the list of gaudy statistics that USC has accumulated over the years at the beginning of his Tuesday press conference. They have been at the top of the AP Poll for the past 25 weeks. USC has won 38 of their last 39 games, including 27 straight. The Trojans have outscored opponents under Pete Carroll 1,041 to 449 in the second half.

The stunner was a feat USC is on track for that no other team in NCAA history has reached: if the averages hold up, the Trojans will have a 3,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard rushers and two 1,000-yard receivers. Despite all these impressive numbers, the game is played on the field, not on paper.

"It's a good opportunity for us to judge where we're right now," Weis said. "You never know what factors are going to happen in the game. They have got firepower and you have to try to negate some of that firepower. We are going to have to play very well. We're going to have to play at the top of our game to have a chance of winning. You have got to take care of the football and hope things go your way. That's why you play the game. Just because of those stats doesn't mean it's a locked cinch who wins and who loses."

*Injury update: Wide receiver Rhema McKnight has missed the last three games with a knee injury and center Bob Morton did not play in the Irish's 49-28 win over Purdue. It appears as if Morton may be more ready to go than McKnight for this weekend's game vs. USC.

"They might both be available to play," Weis said. "Bob was ready to play. Actually, Bob was ready to play in the Purdue game. I just never used him because I didn't have to. (Rhema) was a little behind him. We will have to see how it goes with him this week."

*Trojan running back Reggie Bush got banged up during USC's 42-21 win over Arizona last weekend. The junior speedster sustained a minor right knee sprain during a hard run up the middle and limped off the field. Bush came back into the game and still finished with 110 yards rushing. Carroll said Tuesday that Bush will be ready to go by Saturday.

"We will have to wait and see when he gets to practice today," Carroll said. "There is no damage at all to his knee, it is sore from getting banged on it, but he is going to practice today. We will ease him through the week until he is feeling 100%. He might feel 100% today. He is real encouraged, and I am not really concerned about it."

*How could a team that was 6-6 last season and lost their last two games of the year by a combined 48 points be 4-1 the following year (four of first five games on the road) and given a puncher's chance to upset the top-ranked team in the nation?

This question was posed to a few of the Notre Dame players on Tuesday during their interview sessions with the media. Carroll even admitted on the television show "Pardon the Interruption" that there is a huge difference between the 2004 team and the 2005 edition. During his press conference on Tuesday, Carroll also said, "The impact of the head coach is obvious." What is the difference then? Confidence and head coach Charlie Weis.

"I think it's just a change overall in our program, the way we approached spring ball, the way we approached the off-season workouts, the way we approach practice," wide receiver Maurice Stovall said. "I think that plays a big part. How we work in the weight room, overall what we do in the classroom, what we do off the field, everything just has changed. A lot of that has to do with Coach Weis and how he's changed the program around."

Stovall isn't the only one feeling the change in the program.

"Coach Weis has brought in a great group of guys that really understand the game of football, just brought in an attitude that we're here to win, and that's all that's all he's going to accept is winning," offensive lineman Dan Santucci said. "It's just an attitude that is in all of us, confidence and attitude that we expect to go out there every Saturday and win."

*This stat illustrates the lack of big games on the national stage that have involved the Notre Dame football team: this weekend's game is just the second match up between a top 10 Irish team and a top 10 opponent since 1997. The other meeting was in 2002, and it involved USC. The Trojans smashed an under matched Notre Dame team 44-13. To add injury to insult, USC quarterback Carson Palmer had a huge game and clinched the Heisman Trophy Award.

*The Trojans enter Saturday's contest with an impressive 27-game win streak, the longest in the nation. USC better watch out because Notre Dame has an amazing history of stopping winning streaks. The Irish have stopped seven of them (minimum 16 wins in a row) dead in their tracks. The longest was in 1957 when Dick Lynch scored the only touchdown of the game to upset the top-ranked Oklahoma 7-0. The Sooners had won 47 consecutives games previous to the loss. The shortest of these long streak breakers: 16 contests. Notre Dame held off Charlie Ward and Florida State 31-24 in 1993 at Notre Dame Stadium.

*The bye week for the Irish before the USC game has been beneficial for a lot of reasons. Weis said the three goals of getting healthy, having the backups take more reps at practice and the extra week to study for the Trojans were all achieved. The last goal may be the most important. Since 1984, Notre Dame is 26-4 (.867) coming off a bye week. However, last year the Irish had a bye week before their game with USC and it did not help one bit. The Trojans manhandled Notre Dame 41-10 and the result was the nail in the coffin for the Tyrone Willingham coaching era.

What specific things did the Irish do to take advantage of the off-week?

"We went out there and had a couple fundamental and individual technique practices to focus on the little things," Santucci said. "Every day we would watch film on USC. We basically started focusing on them right away. We had a couple days off on the weekend here to just kind of get your mind away from football and to come back with great energy for this game.

"It was a great week. He gave us a chance to heal up our bumps and bruises, just kind of get our mind away from the game a little bit."

*The Pac-10 Conference has been good to the Irish over the years. Notre Dame has won 65 percent of its game versus the league and enjoys winning records over nine of the ten teams. The Irish have beat the USC more times than any other Trojan foe and hold a 42-29-5 advantage over their rival.

Who might you ask does Notre Dame have a losing record against? Oregon State. The Irish are 0-2 against the Beavers, including a 38-21 loss last year in the Insight Bowl. Top Stories