SOUTH BEND – As one of the great cross-country rivalries, the weekend when the Irish and Trojans meet every fall takes on added significance.
Notre Dame and USC have done so 90 times since 1926, and in that time momentum in the series has swung between the two schools.
The Irish went unbeaten against the Trojans from 1983 through 1995. The Trojans returned the favor from 2002-2009 with eight-straight victories. It’s a trend that tends to happen with competitive schools in FBS football, and once again, momentum has changed in this series.
Notre Dame has won the last two games in the series and five of the last seven games in the series as they meet USC in South Bend on Saturday night for the 91st time in history. The Irish haven’t lost at home in the series since 2011, and will be favorites to do so again as they host an unranked Trojans team coming off the bye following a loss at Washington.
“The tradition. Going way back, obviously this game being played for so many years as an intersectional rivalry, they’re not up the street,” said Notre Dame head coach Kelly of the rivalry. “They’re across the country. Great players have played in it. Great coaches that have coached in it. Nationally televised.
“So I just think the history, the tradition of it being played every year, it’s one of those rivalries that hasn’t gone away. It’s part of college football.”
The Irish head into this match-up after two-straight home wins over then No. 18 Virginia and a 52-0 crushing of Bowling Green last weekend.
ILLINOIS: Down at the Half
CHAMPAIGN – A fourth-year breakthrough isn’t looking too good for Illinois at the moment.
A 40-17 loss to Minnesota last Saturday has dropped the Illini to 2-3 on the season and has put the pressure on Lovie Smith just short of the halfway point of the season.
The defense had two touchdowns last week but still struggled to hold down the Gophers, just as they did against the Huskers in a loss at Memorial Stadium in the Big Ten opener. Quarterback Brandon Peters is questionable to face his former team this week, putting more of a strain on the offense that has shown spurts of production this season.
Now No. 16 Michigan rolls into Champaign on Saturday morning. It’s not ideal timing for one of the better teams the Illini will face this year to pay a visit, but Smith is keeping his perspective on things.
“We’re behind going in at the half,” is how the coach said he’s looking at the first five games. “That’s how we are. Most games are won in the second half, in the fourth period of the game. So there is so much football left to go. By saying that, I think you watch the video, and you’re going to see what we need to do, but we need to do that on the football field and make more plays than we’ve made.”
NORTHERN ILLINOIS: A Tough Start in Return to the MAC
DEKALB – It was a tale of two halves and weather conditions.
Northern Illinois raced out to a 17-3 halftime lead against Ball State in their Mid-American Conference opener against Ball State at Huskie Stadium. Then the rains arrived, and it started pouring for the hosts, who were outscored 24-3 in the second half in a 27-20 Cardinals victory.
It gave Ball State their first win over NIU since 2008, and put the Huskies in the early hole in conference play.
Ohio is up next for Thomas Hammock’s team this week on the road after the Bobcats knocked off Buffalo by a point in overtime in their conference opener last weekend.
NORTHWESTERN HAS A BYE WEEK