Will Notre Dame or USC Play for The National Championship? Who Knows

Team Page: #5 Notre Dame :: #3 USC

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Even if a win doesn't get Notre Dame into the national championship game, it certainly would be enough to make sure Southern California doesn't get there.

In one of the most meaningful editions of this storied rivalry, college football fans can only hope this year's meeting is as good as last year's memorable showdown when the sixth-ranked Irish and No. 3 Trojans square off Saturday with hopes of staying in the national title picture.

Oddsmakers have made USC -9 point spread favorites (College Football Odds) for tonights game, the over/under has been set at 56.5 total points (View CFB Sports Books).

While USC (9-1) can do no worse than go to the Rose Bowl, Notre Dame (10-1) needs a win to assure itself a BCS bowl bid. The Trojans are third in the BCS standings, only slightly behind No. 2 Michigan, and the Irish are fifth but have a lot of ground to make up just to catch fourth-place Florida.

``Wherever they put us, they put us,'' USC coach Pete Carroll said. ``We play a great schedule, that's all I know. I'll be the last guy to campaign for us.''

Since these one-loss teams both enter so highly ranked, whichever team wins - especially if doing so handily - would impress the voters and make a climb up the rankings. It seems the Trojans have a good chance to catch Michigan if they win, but the Irish might have a tougher time doing so since their only blemish this season was a 47-21 home loss to the Wolverines on Sept. 16.

Still, some voters might not want to see a Michigan-Ohio State rematch for the national championship after the Buckeyes' 42-39 win over the Wolverines last Saturday.

``I'm rooting for them to say, 'They (Michigan) just had their opportunity. They lost the game, so let's pick somebody else,''' Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said. ``That's obviously the side I'm on.''

Notre Dame will clearly surpass USC with a victory Saturday, and could overtake the Gators if they lose this week to Florida State or in next week's SEC title game against No. 5 Arkansas.

``I think that our best chance - without going into being a politician - our best chance is to go out to USC and beat USC and let the chips fall where they may,'' Weis said. ``You can't even be involved in the conversation if you don't go beat USC.''

The Trojans were nearly knocked out of the national title race by the Irish last season, but Matt Leinart pushed and spun his way into the end zone - helped by a shove from Reggie Bush - with 3 seconds left as USC escaped South Bend with a 34-31 victory.

Notre Dame thought it had won that see-saw battle on the previous play when Leinart was stopped short of the end zone, and its fans began pouring onto the field, but 7 seconds were put back on the clock.

``The reaction of the fans being on the field and then seeing how you kind of want it to come out, then seeing the exact opposite all in a matter of minutes,'' Irish quarterback Brady Quinn said after the loss. ``People were pretty shocked and devastated.''

Quinn left Notre Dame Stadium in much different fashion last weekend, joining the student section in chants of ``Beat SC! Beat SC!'' after leading the Irish to a 41-9 win over Army in his final home game.

The senior threw only his fifth interception of the season, but had three touchdown passes to increase his season total to 32. That's third-most in the nation and two ahead of the player many believe will prevent him from winning the Heisman Trophy - Ohio State's Troy Smith.

Quinn hasn't had much success in three games against the Trojans, completing only 50 percent of his passes for 537 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.

He goes against a USC defense which has been outstanding recently, allowing a total of 19 points and forcing eight turnovers over its past three games. Maybe the Trojans' most impressive performance on that side of the ball came last Saturday, holding one of the country's top offenses scoreless in the second half and to 275 total yards in a 23-9 victory over then-No. 17 California.

That win gave USC the Pac-10 title and a spot in the Rose Bowl, assuming it does not make the BCS title game. It also was the Trojans' 32nd consecutive home victory.

USC did not commit a turnover for the fourth time this season, and has outscored opponents 143-33 in those games. Notre Dame has not had a particularly opportunistic defense, forcing no more than one turnover in seven of 11 games.

Quarterback John David Booty has thrown only one interception and been sacked two times in three games since USC's lone loss - 39-24 at Oregon State on Oct. 28.

The Trojans have won four in a row over the Irish in a series that dates back to 1926, with Notre Dame leading 42-30-5.

by: Anthony White - theSpread.com - Email Us

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