Notre Dame at USC (5, 45.5)
It all comes down to Saturday for No. 1 Notre Dame. Things broke right for the Fighting Irish last weekend, when No. 1 Oregon and No. 2 Kansas State both fell, allowing Notre Dame to slip right into the top spot in the BCS standings. The only thing standing in the way now is rival Southern California. The Fighting Irish will visit the Trojans with a National Championship shot on the line Saturday night. Notre Dame enjoyed an easy victory over Wake Forest on Senior Day last week as the rest of the top three was falling apart around the country. USC began the season thinking this game would be their final stop before a shot at the BCS title, but things have not quite gone according to plan. The Trojans have dropped three of their last four games to fall out of BCS consideration but can head into the bowl season with smiles on their faces by keeping the rival Irish out of the title game. They will have to accomplish that with a first-time starter at quarterback, however, as redshirt freshman Max Wittek is taking the place of injured starter Matt Barkley.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ABC.
LINE: Notre Dame -5, 45.5 O/U.
WEATHER: Forecasts are calling for temperatures in the low-70s with clear skies. Wind shouldn’t be a factor.
ABOUT NOTRE DAME (11-0): The Irish have been tested plenty of times in their first 11 games and have won by a touchdown or less five times thanks to a defense that has allowed an FBS-low 10.1 points. That unit could send linebacker Manti Te’o to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York and even win him the award with a big performance Saturday. Notre Dame has allowed only eight touchdowns this season - tops in the country. But the most impressive thing about the Irish over the past few games has been the performance of quarterback Everett Golson. The redshirt freshman has thrown for seven touchdowns and two picks in the last three games and exploded for a season-high 346 yards and three touchdowns in the 38-0 victory over Wake Forest last Saturday.
ABOUT SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (7-4): The Trojans have the offensive firepower to attack Notre Dame’s relative weaknesses in the defensive backfield. Wide receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods are arguably the top tandem in the nation and will make the transition to starting easier for Wittek. Barkley went down in the second half of last week’s 38-28 loss to rival UCLA with a shoulder injury and Wittek completed all three of his attempts for 40 yards. The precocious freshman was confident during an ESPN radio interview this week, saying “I’m gonna go out there, I’m gonna play within myself, within the system, and we’re gonna win this ballgame.” Wittek might have trouble running up the score against Te’o and company and could use some help from his own defense, which has been shredded for 46.3 points in the last three losses.
* Fighting Irish are 1-4 ATS in their last five vs. Pac-12 foes.
* Trojans are 1-5 ATS in their last six vs. a team with a winning record.
* Under is 6-1 in Trojans’ last seven home games.
* Under is 7-1-1 in Notre Dame’s last nine road games.
* Under is 4-1 in the last five meetings.
1. Notre Dame is ranked No. 1 for the first time since 1993. The Irish have lost at USC as the No. 1 team twice before - in 1938 and 1965.
2. USC has taken nine of the last 10 meetings, with the lone setback coming in 2010, when Barkley missed the game because of injury.
3. Lee was named one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award honoring the nation’s top receiver.