Southern Cal freshman Max Wittek ready for No. 1 Notre Dame

Posted: November 24, 2012

LOS ANGELES - Not many young quarterbacks would even have the audacity to imagine making their first career starts under the circumstances surrounding Max Wittek at the Coliseum on Saturday night.

The freshman is replacing Matt Barkley, an injured senior who has claimed most of the career passing records at Southern California. Wittek is facing Notre Dame (11-0), a storied football power with a No. 1 ranking and the nation's most feared defense.

The Irish need just one more win to book a spot in the national title game, and the struggling Trojans (7-4) have lost three of four. Yet Wittek also has arguably the best receiving duo in the nation catching his passes and a sold-out stadium firmly at his back.

If the enormity of this occasion is scaring Wittek, the confident 19-year-old with a bigger arm than Barkley's hasn't shown it a bit.

"You really can't ask for a better opportunity to show what you've got," Wittek said. "I just want to get that first snap, maybe that first hit, out of the way, and I'll be ready to go."

Although USC has dominated the past decade in this delicious intersectional rivalry, winning nine of 10 and missing a clean sweep by one dropped touchdown pass two years ago, Wittek and the Trojans realize most of the pressure is on the other sideline this time.

The Irish are just one win away from completing a remarkable run to the BCS title game in coach Brian Kelly's third season. With so many pressure-packed wins already behind them this season, the Irish will hit the field in downtown Los Angeles simply trying not to get caught up in the matchup's history - or the history they'll make with a victory.

"You think about it," Notre Dame safety Zeke Motta said. "In the back of your mind, it's there that if you win this game, you're going to play in the national championship. What more motivation do you need?"

Notre Dame has done its part to make the schools' 84th meeting appropriately memorable. The Irish headed to the Coliseum with the No. 1 ranking for the sixth time in the schools' shared history, and they're unbeaten when facing USC for the first time since 1993.

USC is headed to a lower-tier bowl game, but could halt its late-season slide from the preseason No. 1 ranking by crushing the Irish's title dreams. USC has stumbled after a 6-1 start to a season of enormous expectations, losing to Arizona, Oregon and UCLA in the previous four weeks.

"This is a game where we can get our respect back and get a good feeling about ourselves," USC safety T.J. McDonald said.

Everybody on the USC offense knows all about the imposing Irish defense, led by linebacker Manti Te'o, which has allowed just 10.1 points per game and eight touchdowns all season.

Notre Dame's punishing run defense has been almost impenetrable, but its pass defense has yet to be tested by an offense with USC's talent - even with a freshman quarterback at the controls.

"It's very exciting," Notre Dame center Braxston Cave said. "This is what guys come to Notre Dame for. We've finally got the program back to where it belongs, and I think guys are really excited about that."

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|