- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- No, there is not a cardboard cutout of Max Wittek standing in the Notre Dame locker room. The USC quarterback's comments from a Tuesday radio appearance are not posted around the school's football complex.
The news to Irish players Wednesday? Of course a starting quarterback thinks his team's going to win, so why is it a big deal?
"He's a big guy, he has a strong arm -- obviously he guaranteed a win or whatever, but at the same time what do you expect?" Notre Dame's fifth-year end Kapron Lewis-Moore said. "You don't expect him to say we're going to lose. I think people are really making a bigger deal than what it is. He's a confident quarterback, and you want to play for a confident quarterback. So by him coming out saying, 'We're going to win,' that's what you want out of your quarterback.
"Obviously we're not over-thinking it, it's not hanging up in the locker room, it's not bulletin-board material. You know about it, just kind of shrug it off, then go to work."
Wittek is making his first career start after Matt Barkley went down Saturday with a shoulder injury. The redshirt freshman has completed 8 of 9 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown as a reserve this season.
On Tuesday, he went on 710 ESPN Radio in Los Angeles and expressed confidence in his chances against the No. 1 Irish.
"If he wants to air it out, let's air it out," Wittek said of Trojans coach Lane Kiffin. "If he wants to pound it on the ground, let's do that. I'm gonna go out there, I'm gonna play within myself, within the system, and we're gonna win this ballgame."
The comments drew a strong response, just not among Notre Dame players.
"They probably just mis-said a few words, who knows?" Irish nose guard Louis Nix said of the comments. "I don't try to take comments, what people say, because sometimes people speak out of terms and people try to boost it up. If he said it, he said it. If he didn't mean to, he didn't meant to. I don't really care. I'm just going out to the Coliseum trying to play some good football."
Last year USC linebacker Chris Galippo said that Notre Dame quit when it didn't use any of its three timeouts late in a 31-17 Trojans win at Notre Dame Stadium. Barkley echoed those comments later on a radio show.
"I think that from their position, you'd hope that a quarterback coming in and being a rookie and all, you'd have confidence going into a game like this," Irish safety Zeke Motta said. "But with that inexperience, it could go either way. But I think that you think about an inexperienced quarterback out there, try to use that to your advantage out on the field. But at the same time he has nothing to lose, so he can chunk it up or whatever."
17hSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
2dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney