Notre Dame, out of the hunt for a major bowl bid with a record of 7-4, is trying to finish the regular season with a confidence-building victory.
The Fighting Irish share a lot in common with 7-4 USC, which was still recovering Monday from its loss to UCLA.
Notre Dame arrives at the Coliseum on Saturday trying to salvage a season that, at its midpoint, appeared headed toward possible culmination in the College Football Playoff.
But the Fighting Irish have lost four of their five games.
On Sunday, a day after his team’s third straight defeat, 31-28 against Louisville, Coach Brian Kelly was asked about the annual rivalry game against the Trojans.
“Great tradition in the matchup,” said Kelly, who is 3-1 against USC, “but we just need to find a win.”
Notre Dame was 6-0 and ranked fifth in the Associated Press media poll before losing at Florida State, 31-27, on Oct. 18.
The Fighting Irish bounced back to defeat Navy, but then lost at Arizona State and at home against Northwestern and Louisville.
USC is trying to recover from its 38-20 defeat by UCLA, a loss that looked worse than the score indicated.
The Trojans’ offensive line struggled in both the run and passing games.
“We had a few communication breakdowns,” Coach Steve Sarkisian said in a video that was posted on USC’s website. He added, “It reared its ugly head there the other night.”
Quarterback Cody Kessler also struggled, as did USC safeties, who missed numerous tackles.
A week after UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley took advantage of the Trojans, Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson will try to do the same.
Two years ago, Golson helped lead a top-ranked Fighting Irish team to a 22-13 victory over the Trojans at the Coliseum. Golson passed for 217 yards and rushed for 47 in a victory that included five Notre Dame field goals.
This season, Golson has passed for 29 touchdowns, with 13 interceptions. He also has rushed for eight touchdowns.
Golson’s favorite target is William Fuller, who has 66 receptions, 14 for touchdowns.
“We need to try to get into his face,” Sarkisian said of Golson. “We can’t let him sit in the pocket and see clearly.
“We need to make it as difficult as possible on him.”
Still in the running
USC tailback Javorius Allen is now playing catch-up for the Pac-12 Conference rushing title, but he does not need to make up a large margin to accomplish the feat.
Conference leader Paul Perkins of UCLA, Utah’s Devontae Booker and Allen are separated by fewer than two yards per game and 21 total yards.
Perkins, who rushed for 93 yards against the Trojans, goes into Friday’s game against Stanford averaging a conference-leading 115.0 yards per game. He has gained 1,265 yards.
Booker is second at 114.1 yards per game. He has 1,255 yards.
Allen went into the UCLA game as the conference leader, averaging 118.4 yards per game. But he rushed for only 60 yards in 14 carries, the second game in a row he gained 60 yards.
He is averaging 113.1 yards per game. He has 1,244 yards.
Ricky Ervins in 1989 was the last USC player to lead the conference in rushing.
The Trojans resume workouts Tuesday. . . . Kessler fell from fourth to fifth nationally in passing efficiency.