USC and Notre Dame both will try to salvage seasons of missed opportunities when they play for the 86th time in a series that dates to 1926. Staff writer Gary Klein examines the matchups and story lines:
Thrown for losses
USC quarterback Cody Kessler will try to rebound after he was less than sharp against UCLA.
Kessler is completing 69.7% of his passes, 30 for touchdowns, with four interceptions. He ranks fifth nationally in passing efficiency.
Last season, Kessler completed 20 of 34 passes for 201 yards against the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame’s Everett Golson is completing 61% of his passes. He has passed for 29 touchdowns, with 13 interceptions, and has rushed for 291 yards and eight touchdowns.
Two years ago at the Coliseum, Golson completed 15 of 26 passes for 217 yards, and rushed nine times for 47 yards against the Trojans.
Kickers and punters are typically complementary weapons, not main ones. But Notre Dame’s Kyle Brindza has been especially troublesome for USC.
Two years ago, Brindza kicked five field goals, including one from 52 yards, to help the top-ranked Fighting Irish defeat the Trojans, 22-13, at the Coliseum.
Last season, he helped control USC’s field position with seven punts in a 14-10 Fighting Irish victory.
Brindza has made 13 of 22 field-goal attempts this season and is averaging 41.8 yards per punt.
USC’s Andre Heidari, playing his final game at the Coliseum, has made eight of 10 field-goal attempts. Kris Albarado has averaged 41.7 yards per punt.
Making a run
USC tailback Javorius Allen had rushed for more than 100 yards in six consecutive games this season before he was limited to 60 yards in 21 carries against California and 60 yards in 14 carries against UCLA.
This could be the final game at the Coliseum for the draft-eligible junior.
Notre Dame’s Tarean Folston has rushed for 802 yards and five touchdowns. Golson is the Fighting Irish’s second-leading rusher.
It’s a recurring theme after the UCLA debacle but …
USC receiver Nelson Agholor had a streak of four consecutive 100-yard receiving games end when he had only three catches for 24 yards against the Bruins.
Coach Steve Sarkisian continues to stress that he wants Kessler to utilize multiple receivers, such as JuJu Smith, George Farmer, Darreus Rogers and Steven Mitchell.
Notre Dame’s Will Fuller has a team-best 66 receptions, 14 for touchdowns.
He and other Fighting Irish receivers, including USC transfer Amir Carlisle, will work against a secondary that struggled to tackle against UCLA.
On the line
USC’s offensive line gave up six sacks against UCLA.
Sarkisian indicated there would be no changes, but freshman Damien Mama is expected to play more at guard and, perhaps, the coaching staff will entrust senior Aundrey Walker with an opportunity.
Notre Dame, which has 22 sacks, has lost multiple defensive players because of injuries, including linebacker Joe Schmidt and linemen Jarron Jones and Sheldon Day.
USC defensive end Leonard Williams is a junior but this could be his final game at the Coliseum. The top NFL prospect has a team-best six of the Trojans’ 26 sacks.
The Fighting Irish roster includes several sons of former high-profile athletes and entertainment figures.
Corey Robinson, a sophomore whose father, David, starred in the NBA, has 37 receptions, five for touchdowns. Torii Hunter Jr., the son of major league outfielder Torii Hunter, has seven receptions, one for a touchdown.
Safety Austin Collinsworth is the son of television broadcaster and former NFL receiver Cris Collinsworth. Offensive lineman Conor Hanratty is the son of former Notre Dame and NFL quarterback Terry Hanratty. Senior cornerback Josh Atkinson is the son of former NFL defensive back George Atkinson. Walk-on cornerback Jesse Bongiovi, the son of rock singer Jon Bon Jovi, suffered a season-ending knee injury during spring practice.