Kickoff for the contest is at 3:43 PM and NBC will have the national television broadcast. With the Trojans currently a powerhouse in college football and the Irish trying to get to that level under head coach Charlie Weis, the stakes are high. The Notre Dame head coach spoke about what the game means to him.
"I always know that Notre Dame has been very big making sure that they show due respect to every opponent," Weis said on Wednesday. "I understand Pete (Carroll) yesterday when he talked like Notre Dame is almost a conference game for them because we play each other every year and we have a lot of familiarity; that and the fact that it has been a heated up-and-down type of thing and right now they have hit it for five in a row. It gives a lot of importance to the game."
For Weis, the biggest game in his two and a half seasons at Notre Dame was the USC contest back in 2005. The Irish were a few seconds away from pulling off the upset over the top-ranked Trojans. But Matt Leinart's quarterback sneak across the goal line, with help from Reggie Bush, saved the day for USC and helped the Trojans escape South Bend with a victory. It's the defining game for Weis' brief career at Notre Dame, even though it ended in defeat. The Irish head coach was asked on Wednesday if that bothered him.
"That's a fair question and does it bother me that people remember the high point being a loss?" Weis questioned. "Absolutely, who wants to be remembered for a loss? Taking that aside, I think it was a great football game and you don't get a chance very often in your career to be in a game that was a great football game and it was that. But I would like to have been on the other side of that."
***Notre Dame has three starters battling injury. Weis said on Tuesday that sophomore running back James Aldridge is doubtful for the Trojans game. As for junior wide receiver David Grimes and Maurice Crum, both will be monitored this week in practice. Grimes has been out since the Purdue contest with an ankle injury while Crum got kicked in the shin during the UCLA game. The senior linebacker tried to play in the Boston College contest but was quickly pulled off the field. It's still up in the air as to their status.
"Grimes looked better today than he did yesterday," Weis said. "I didn't see Mo today, but Mo was going to try and go as much as he could today to see what he had. He went limited yesterday, but I told him let's see what you've got today. If he looked okay, I would probably hold back on him a little bit tomorrow so I can have him full-go on Saturday. To be honest with you, I don't know about Mo yet because I didn't see enough of the defensive practice, the last half of practice."
***For those living underneath a rock, Evan Sharpley will be the starting quarterback for the USC game. The junior signal caller came on in relief of freshman Jimmy Clausen and directed the Irish to their only offensive scoring drive of the afternoon. Weis made it official on Tuesday. Before this week, Sharpley was getting one-third of the reps in practice. Now, the junior is getting two-thirds and starting to show a more vocal demeanor on the field.
"When you're not the regular guy in the huddle and you're getting a third of the reps, so to speak, the huddle kind of not belongs to you," Weis said. "It's almost like you are taking time in there. This week the one thing I have seen from Evan is him becoming more authoritative in the huddle because he knows he's the guy. He's getting the reps so I think, as much as anything, you can see the confidence and the guys getting used to him calling the plays and him calling the snap-count. I think he definitely has shown more command this week."
***The winner of Saturday's game will be awarded the Shillelagh. The foot-long club has ruby-adorned Trojans heads and emerald-studded shamrocks for each team's victories. The winner gets to keep it for an entire year, meaning its been in USC's possession since 2002.
***USC has been ranked in the top-25 for the past 72 weeks, a school record. The Trojans have been in the AP Top 10 for 63 of the past 64 weeks.
***Weis on people overlooking USC because of the Trojans being ranked No. 13: "This is typical for them because sometimes people take USC and their program for granted. They have been so good for a while, when they're not winning by three or four touchdowns, everyone thinks there's a problem. You have to remember when you're at the perch where they have been, everyone's gunning for you every week. It isn't like, ‘Oh, it's USC. Ah, it's just USC showing up.' I don't think sometimes people give USC their just due because they have been so good so long."