With Matt Barkley still in a walking boot and on crutches, redshirt senior Mitch Mustain got nearly all of the reps with the USC offense Tuesday and seems likely to start at quarterback against Notre Dame.
"Yeah absolutely, I'm going into it like I'm going to take that first play," Mustain said. "If Matt hops up and is ready to go, so be it but as of right now, I plan on going."
"He did some really good things," USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "I thought he did well. I kept him in the pocket a lot. A lot of shotgun stuff, stuff he's comfortable with. If Matt can't play, he'll be ready to play.
"I think it would be a pretty neat story if he ends up playing and playing really well."
Mustain has attempted just 50 passes as a Trojan, throwing for 322 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Playing the entire second half at Oregon State, he was 8 of 17 for 60 yards, a game Mustain said he was happy to move past.
"It was nice to get Saturday finally in the rearview mirror and move fast and look forward," he said. "We watched it, we got it out of the way, learned what we could from it and hopefully that's the end of that one. We get a new week, a new team back at the Coliseum. Just have to erase it and go on."
Mustain has not started since a November 2006 game against South Carolina when he was a true freshman at Arkansas. The closest he has previously come to starting for USC came in 2008 when Mark Sanchez suffered a dislocated kneecap in fall camp weeks before the season opener at Virginia.
"You always look forward to it actually happening and however slim it may be," Mustain said. "I had the deal in '08 where Mark was hurt, a couple weeks there and one week I prepared all the way up to Thursday. It happens and you have to be ready to go. If this is it, I'll be ready to go for it and what I've been playing for, what I've been practicing for, what I've stuck around this year for. I'm ready to go."
As for Barkley, who did not practice Tuesday because of a high ankle sprain, he called himself day-to-day.
"Planning on playing this weekend," Barkley said. "We'll see what happens. There's been improvement from when it initially happened."
Kiffin said the team would know who is starting, even if it is not announced publicly.
Former USC coach Pete Carroll was criticized for his failure to name Aaron Corp the starter before last season's loss at Washington with Barkley dealing with a separated shoulder.
Believe it or not, USC actually played one of its better defensive games of the season despite losing to the Beavers, 36-7.
"We watched the film and with six or seven minutes left in the game, they only had 211 yards," said linebacker Chris Galippo, who suffered a concussion against Oregon Staten but should be cleared to practice Wednesday. "We played really, really well against them. Unfortunately, with field position and that type of deal, they were able to score points. It didn't swing our way."
That effort carried over to Tuesday's practice, drawing effusive praise from Kiffin.
"I don't know what was said to them or got into them, but for the first time since I've been here they had a mentality in practice that was like the last time we were here, which was really neat to see," he said. I don't know what happened, but by far the best defensive practice we've had in our year of being here, spring and fall included.
"You could see a different look in them. It's what we've been trying to work for for a long time, the look of making plays, not talking about it, pointing fingers and standing over people. Just going back to the huddle and doing it again. It was really neat to see, and it would be great to have going into these last two games."
After two poor practices early last week that set the tone for the upset loss to the Beavers, Kiffin believes the team now understands the importance of working at a high level every chance they get.
"Hopefully they'll come back and do it tomorrow. I think they all realize that what happened last week in practice carried over into the game, and I think they don't want it to happen again this week."
-Wide receiver Markeith Ambles is no longer a member of the USC football program, Kiffin confirmed Tuesday.
The Los Angeles Times first reported Ambles' departure.
Kiffin declined to go into specifics, but the true freshman had been suspended indefinitely last month for a violation of team rules.
Ambles, a four-star recruit from McDonough, Ga., played in four games with the Trojans, catching one pass for three yards and losing one fumble.
-Running back Dillon Baxter practiced with the team Tuesday, but has yet to be fully reinstated by the NCAA. The freshman made restitution by giving five dollars to charity.
-Cornerback Torin Harris and offensive tackle Tyron Smith did not practice Tuesday, while running back Marc Tyler and safety Jawanza Starling were limited.
-Cornerback T.J. Bryant underwent successful shoulder surgery and will miss the remainder of the season.