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POPE: For Brian Kelly, Irish, USC game ‘is our rivalry’

Notre Dame v ArizonState

Notre Dame v Arizona State

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The Big
Number

Notre Dame’s 44 wins against Southern California are the most for any USC opponent. California is second with 30 wins against the Trojans.

The Extra Point

Tight end Troy Niklas was named to the Mackey Award midseason watch list. The award goes to the nation’s top tight end. Niklas has 14 catches for 250 yards and four touchdowns.

More on the web

Notre Dame prepares to face a USC team in its second game under interim coach Ed Orgeron.

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Updated: November 17, 2013 9:59AM



SOUTH BEND — Neither team is ranked.

Both have two losses.

And one has an interim coach.

But there is still plenty to look forward to Saturday when Notre Dame meets Southern California.

“I think we go through the season in so many weeks, I think it’s on the other side, in other words, other teams (are) really calling it their rivalry game. I think our players will be the first ones to admit that this is our rivalry game. This is our game that we look forward to against USC,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said during his weekly news conference Tuesday.

“It’s one that it’s on our calendar as, I don’t want to say a red-letter game, but one that we look forward to. It’s such a great matchup, great tradition, great history. It’s part of the history of Notre Dame football that they really recognize as that one singular game.”

The Irish and Trojans enter Saturday’s primetime contest with 4-2 records.

Notre Dame had a bye following its 37-34 win against Arizona State.

USC followed up the dismissal of coach Lane Kiffin by defeating Arizona 38-31 in Ed Orgeron’s debut as the team’s interim coach.

“We talk about the importance of the rivalry to the USC family. You learn that really quick, I was an assistant here in 1998, you find out about it really quick,” Orgeron said during Tuesday’s Pac-12 teleconference. “… All the tradition is there and the respect for the rivalry is utmost in the Trojan family.”

This marks just the 11th time that the teams meet while both are unranked. Notre Dame has a 7-3 record in those instances. The Trojans won the last time under the scenario in 2011.

USC has won nine of the last 11 in the series (that includes the 2005 contest that was later vacated because of an NCAA penalty). But the Irish have won two of the last three meetings.

“Now I think it’s, we would hope that both programs are competing each and every year for BCS bowls and playoff opportunities, and I think that’s where both programs want to be, that they’re on equal footing, that you don’t have to wait three, four years to get a win,” Kelly said. “I think both programs are looking forward to those days where it’s a great matchup year in and year out.”

This season, both teams have had their highs and lows. They share one common opponent to date, Arizona State (both teams play Stanford later this season).

Notre Dame held off the scrappy Sun Devils, who were ranked No. 22 in The Associated Press poll at the time. USC lost to Arizona State, 62-41, on Sept. 28. Kiffin was fired the next day.

Kelly’s takeaway from both games is that Arizona State is “a really good football team and really difficult.”

“They gave us all we could handle as well. Their offense is dynamic. When we do those self scouts and take a look at other opponents, we’re certainly looking at the nuances of the game, but I really think, if you look at it, it was back and forth. But the game, at the end, kind of got away from USC,” Kelly said.

“That game, it was a close game right into the fourth quarter. You had two teams going back and forth, and the dam kind of broke at the end. So we look at it, our game very close back and forth, USC-Arizona State, close game back and forth. You’re going to expect the same thing with Notre Dame-USC.”

The Irish are looking for their first win against the Trojans at Notre Dame Stadium since 2001.

Not that the stat is the most important thing on Kelly’s mind.

“I did not know that. I wasn’t aware of the history of that,” Kelly said. “Really, what we’ve talked about as a team as to really present our goals, what our goals are, our goals are pretty clear. We want to win every game that we play the rest of the season, and whatever that takes us, at the end of the season, we’ll be excited about that.

“We want to beat USC, and those really are our goals, and we haven’t really talked about anything else relative to how that affects how we prepare.”



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