News and Notes: 11/24/2006

*Here is the best from head coach Charlie Weis this past week:

*On the lack of a signature win on his Notre Dame resume: "There's very few victories that I don't consider great victories. If you glamorize one game, then you're not giving just due to all the other games. There are very few games that we've won that I didn't say, ‘Well, that was a great victory.' We've had two dramatic comebacks this year. I'd say they were great victories. How could you not say that Michigan State and UCLA in the fourth quarter were not great victories? You couldn't feel much better than the euphoria after those two games.

"Just because it's not USC or Michigan or Ohio State or one of the teams that are considered the creme de la creme, I think there's been some victories here that you couldn't convince our team or players that they weren't great victories."

*On the politicking between the one-loss teams: "I think with all these teams that are trying to put their self in place to be in the picture, all these one-loss teams that are trying to put their place to be in the picture, everyone could try to politic and show their bias one way or another.

"Still the bottom line is there's a blemish on your record. Our blemish was the loss to Michigan at home rather convincingly. Now, let's talk the pros and cons. On the one side you have people say, ‘That was in September. They're a lot better team now. If they go into USC and beat them convincingly, shouldn't they come into the conversation?' The flipside of that, ‘Well, you had your opportunity. You had your opportunity. You lost a game at home.'

"When I'm so prejudiced and biased toward Notre Dame, why really go there? Every team that has a blemish can sit there and say why they should be in there. The bottom line is, if you wouldn't have lost, you'd be like Ohio State, guaranteed a spot. Ohio State is guaranteed a spot and deservedly so."

*On the claims that the grass was intentionally grown high in last year's game at Notre Dame Stadium: "This is the Midwest, okay? In the Midwest, grass doesn't grow as high as it does in the South or in warm weather climates. Therefore, if you cut the grass low early in the year, usually you have no grass left at the end of the year.

"I mean, it's a pretty simple concept if you think about it. If we go cut the grass low early in the year, it's not going to grow as much, then you're going to be playing on dirt. Because we're not going to field turf here. Last I checked, we're going to stay on natural grass. Was the grass higher than it will be in a lot of places? Yes. Both teams played on the grass. What difference does it make what field you play on? You play on a field, you play on a field."

*On his players' mindset for this week: "I would hope that this year our players are expecting to win versus hoping to win. I would hope that to be the case. Now, of course, that's easier said than done because I'm sure the team we're going against expects to beat us, as well. Look, Pete (Carroll) is 19-0 in November. They've won 32 in a row at home. I think the odds are in their favor the way they're looking at it, okay? For them to go and do what we're counting on doing, they're going to have to play an awfully good game against an awfully good team."

*On the key characteristic for a ball control, eat the clock offense (like was the case last season in the Irish-Trojans game): "The first thing is patience. I think one of the problems that people have regardless of the personnel group or the style of play, that people have when they're going into a big game, is not having patience. I think you need to have patience.

"Our team has shown that when the game style warrants them playing that way, they could play that way. That's what it was last year. Now, of course, their staff can dictate a different style of play if they care to. You got to be ready to adjust according to what style they're looking for you to play. Like if all of a sudden they're putting 18 people up on the box, they want to sit there and say, ‘We have to shut down corners, they'll shut down (Jeff) Samardzija and (Rhema) McKnight on every play.' You have to be willing to take that chance and see what happens.

"In most cases, good football teams, like USC, make you be patient because when you get impatient, that's why you've seen, as good a team as there's been in the last five years, easily in the second half, they play with so much confidence in the second half because teams become impatient with how things have gone. Next thing you know, USC is up 7, 14, 21, just starts pulling away in the second half."

*On USC's Dwayne Jarrett: "It's interesting. When you have tall guys, a guy who is 6'5", 215, and the best way I can relate it to is sort of like when we went to the Jets, Keyshawn (Johnson) was in his second year there. A tall guy, come out of USC, caught a whole bunch of balls, okay? The one thing that Keyshawn always reminded me of is when I worked with him was how he was capable of using his body to get himself open.

"I think that Jarrett, besides being a very good athlete for a guy who is that big, does a very good job at using his body. That's one of the reasons I like Samardzija. I like Samardzija because here is a guy who is 6'5" who does a very good job at torquing his body to be able to be in the right position all the time.

"I think that's one thing he's been able to do, is take that big frame of his, that size, use it to his advantage, where a lot of people, that becomes a disadvantage."

*On the historical significance of the rivalry: "There's been some ebbs and flows in this series. There was that string where Notre Dame won a whole bunch in a row for over a decade. Now USC has gotten the best of us.

"I think the bottom line is, any time you have an intersectional rival- it's one thing like we play a bunch of teams in the Midwest that are all big rivals, every year they're big rivals because they're within driving distance of each other. We can get to Ann Arbor, East Lansing, West Lafayette. Any time you have an intersectional rival that you play year in and year out like this one right here, it always creates rooting interest just because of the allegiance towards the different parts of the country. I think that's what makes it so special.

"I'd just like to think that as good as their program has been for quite some time, we're on our way to being on equal footing. I'd like to think we're on our way here."

***Prediction: USC 38 Notre Dame 28. This is final exam time for the Irish. After feasting on the three service academies and North Carolina, Notre Dame takes a big step up and heads west to face USC. Replays of last season's classic will be played over and over again leading up to the contest and during the ABC broadcast. The Irish seniors have never beaten the Trojans. They'll want to win on Saturday night and erase the four-game losing streak in the series.

A few key matchups will determine the outcome. First, can the Notre Dame secondary prevent the big play against USC's talented wide receiving core? This is the best bunch of wideouts they've seen since Michigan and everyone knows what happened back in September. Has the secondary improved over the course of the season? Covering Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith and Patrick Turner will provide that answer in a hurry.

Secondly, can the Irish offensive line give Brady Quinn enough time to pick apart a Trojan secondary that ranks an average 57th in the nation against the pass? Weis has raved about the speed of the USC defense, especially the front seven. Good protection will translate into a monster game for Quinn and possibly the elusive victory over the Trojans in his brilliant Notre Dame career.

My answer: the Trojans talented trio at the wide receiver position make the necessary big plays to catapult USC to the victory. Quinn keeps the Irish in the contest but the Trojans offense should have their way on Saturday night en route to their fifth straight win over Notre Dame.


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