Notre Dame-USC pre-game ponderables

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Greetings from Notre Dame Stadium, where we're just about an hour away from kickoff between the Fighting Irish and USC.

It's a pretty nice day here, with temperatures near 50 and sunny skies. Of course, the mercury will keep dropping throughout the day, and we'll see how the California boys deal with that.

The grass is not cut to U.S. Open rough specifications like it was in 2005. Looks like a normal playing surface, and the field appears to be in great shape after the bye week.

There was quite a buzz outside the stadium today, as the tailgating lots were jammed earlier than normal. I saw Irish and Trojans fans playfully yelling at each other at rest stops along the way here from Chicago. Notre Dame actually feels like it has something to talk about today.

Will the Irish be able to make this a game? The defense is going to have to rise up, and the team may need a score or at least some big plays out of special teams or a turnover at some point to have a chance. I look for Charlie Weis to make Matt Barkley beat him instead of the powerful USC running game. But Notre Dame may not be able to stop Joe McKnight and Allen Bradford even by loading the box.

The USC marching band got in here early and took up residence in the southeast corner. I don't think Golden Tate will mistake them for his own band today.

Much more to come throughout the day ...