USC looking to play spoiler
Rival Notre Dame heads to the Coliseum looking for a trip to the BCS title game
The USC Trojans (7-4) will look to play the role of spoiler on Saturday as the No. 1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-0) comes to town for the 84th meeting between the two rivals. The Trojans have seen their season go from bad to worse over the past month, dropping three of their last four games, including their crosstown matchup with UCLA last weekend, 38-28. A Fighting Irish squad riding a wave of momentum, meanwhile, handled Wake Forest easily, 38-0, and they appear headed to the BCS title game if they can come away with a victory at the Coliseum.
Scoring: 27.2 points per game (No. 73 nationally)
Rushing: 200.7 yards per game (No. 33 nationally)
Passing: 219 yards per game (No. 79 nationally)
Total: 419.7 yards per game (No. 50 nationally)
Yet another dual-threat quarterback for the Trojans to prepare for, Golson's statistics aren't overly impressive because of inconsistency in the early portion of the schedule, but he's improved steadily throughout the season. He put on a show against the Demon Deacons, passing for 346 yards and three touchdowns.
Running Back: No. 6 Theo Riddick (5-11, 200, Sr.), No. 20 Cierre Wood (6-0, 215, Sr.), No. 4 George Atkinson III (6-1, 210, So.)
The Fighting Irish feature a potent ground game with Riddick generally thought to be the sturdiest of a very talented running back trio that includes Wood and Atkinson. It was Wood who stole the spotlight last week, amassing 150 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries.
Wide Receiver: No. 7 T.J. Jones (5-11, 190, Jr.), No. 9 Robby Toma (5-9, 185, Sr.), No. 81 John Goodman (6-3, 215, Sr.), No. 87 Daniel Smith (6-4, 215, Jr.)
Notre Dame averages just 219 yards through the air per game, so this group hasn't exactly lit it up, and it misses the services of DaVaris Daniels, who is out with a broken clavicle. Still, Jones has 40 receptions to his credit, and Toma and Goodman have proven to be steady options.
Tight End: No. 80 Tyler Eifert (6-6, 251, Sr.), No. 85 Troy Niklas (6-7, 260, So.)
One of the top tight ends in the nation, Eifert is an extremely reliable receiving threat, hauling in 40 passes for 555 yards and four touchdowns so far in 2012.
Offensive Line: LT No. 70 Zack Martin (6-4, 304, Sr.), LG No. 66 Chris Watt (6-3, 310, Sr.), C No. 52 Braxston Cave (6-3, 304, Sr.), RG No. 57 Mike Golic Jr. (6-3, 295, Sr.), RT No. 74 Christian Lombard (6-5, 309, Jr.)
Led by Martin, the Notre Dame offensive line is a veteran unit that has paved the way for the nation's No. 33 rushing attack while giving up a total of just 15 sacks in 11 games.
Scoring: 10.1 points per game (No. 1 nationally)
Rushing: 92.2 yards per game (No. 5 nationally)
Passing: 195.2 yards per game (No. 24 nationally)
Total: 287.8 yards per game (No. 6 nationally)
The Notre Dame defense has been flat-out dominant this season, ranking No. 5 in rushing defense (92.2 yards allowed per game) and No. 13 in sacks (2.8 per game), thanks in large part to the production up front. Tuitt has been the star of this group, racking up 40 tackles and 12 sacks.
Linebacker: No. 55 Prince Shembo (6-2, 250, Jr.), No. 48 Dan Fox (6-3, 240, Sr.), No. 5 Manti Te'o (6-2, 255, Sr.), No. 13 Danny Spond (6-2, 248, Jr.)
One of the most prolific players in all of college football, Te'o is the emotional leader of the entire team, and an integral part of an Irish defense that allows just 10.1 points per game. A Heisman candidate from his inside linebacker spot, he's made 98 tackles and six interceptions this season.
Cornerback: No. 6 KeiVarae Russell (5-11, 182, Fr.), No. 2 Bennett Jackson (6-0, 185, Jr.)
Both first-year starters, Russell and Jackson have provided the Fighting Irish with solid play, with the latter contributing 55 tackles and four interceptions. Against top passers like Landry Jones of Oklahoma and Chase Rettig of Boston College, however, they did have their lapses.
Safety: No. 17 Zeke Motta (6-2, 215, Sr.), No. 41 Matthias Farley (6-1, 200, So.)
Motta has 26 starts under his belt and is second on the team with 56 tackles from his strong safety spot. Farley, a converted wide receiver, stepped into the starting lineup at free safety in mid-September and has exceeded expectations.
Kicker: No. 27 Kyle Brindza (6-1, 225, So.)
Brindza has connected on 18 of 25 field goal attempts, while knocking 23 of his 62 kickoffs back for touchbacks.
Punter: No. 35 Ben Turk (5-11, 186, Sr.)
Turk averages 40.3 yards per punt, the No. 71 mark nationally.
Kick Returner: No. 4 George Atkinson III (6-1, 210, So.)
Atkinson has game-breaking talent to be sure, but so far he's averaged just 20.5 yards per kick return.
Punt Returner: No. 19 Davonte' Neal (5-9, 171, Fr.)
Neal, a highly regarded freshman, is averaging just 2.4 yards per punt return.
ESPN TOP HEADLINES
- Redskins' Cousins to start in place of RG III
- Doc wins in return as Clippers top Celtics
- NCAA may work with power 5 conferences
- Source: Colon, Mets reach 2-year, $20M deal