College football is coming to a close as the final week of the regular season approaches, which of course means it’s rivalry week. The now unranked Fighting Irish will be traveling to the Los Angeles Coliseum for the second time this season, this time to take on the USC Trojans at 3:30 PM EST Saturday. Both teams come into this matchup with a 7-4 record, and the Fighting Irish are coming off of three straight losses.
After a narrow loss in the final seconds of their game at Florida State, Notre Dame has continued to fall in both the AP Poll and the College Football Playoff Rankings, ultimately slipping out of the Top-25.
The Fighting Irish offense has clearly struggled over the past few weeks, and the defensive line has continued to take detrimental hits. Notre Dame started the season down several players due to academic violations, but the losses did not stop there. A big hit to the defense ensued when starting linebacker Joe Schmidt suffered an ankle injury during the Navy game. More recently, defensive linemen Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones have been ruled out in this weekend’s final regular season game in addition to safety Drue Tranquill.
Southern Cal has a huge advantage in this game as Notre Dame continues to lose vital starters, weakening both their offense and defense. The Trojans, however, have not lost any players due to injury or team violations since late October.
Both teams have four losses on their record this season, three of which came at the hands of ranked teams. Notre Dame and Southern Cal both suffered a loss against No. 13 Arizona State, though the Trojans lost by a much smaller margin at home. Notre Dame’s unranked loss came in mid-November at home against Northwestern. USC suffered a six point loss at Boston College in week three and the Trojans also fell to Utah by three points. The Utes are unranked in the AP Poll but hold a No.17 ranking in the College Football Playoff Rankings.
The biggest factor on the line for both teams is the chance to advance to a solid bowl game. Both teams are bowl eligible with seven wins apiece. However, the Trojans will be amped up to redeem their loss to the Fighting Irish last season. After losing eight straight in the series, the Fighting Irish have won three out of the last four games against the Trojans. Notre Dame leads the all-time series 45-34-5.
*Section Photo and Featured Photo (above) credit to Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images.