Printed on: November 22, 2012

Irish aim to flip USC rivalry their way

By Ralph D. Russo
AP College Football Writer

The Notre Dame-USC rivalry has been defined by dominance over the last four decades. Two of college football's most celebrated teams have alternated long runs of success in the series that have coincided with the ups and downs of the programs.

When the Fighting Irish and Trojans meet for the 84th time on Saturday in the Los Angeles Coliseum, Notre Dame will be playing for a spot in the national championship while USC will be trying to salvage a disappointing season.

The Irish appear primed to turn the rivalry back in their direction after a decade of USC ownership.

During Southern California's most recent dynasty, coach Pete Carroll's Trojans reeled off eight straight victories against the Irish from 2002-09, the longest winning streak by USC in the series.

In 2010, Brian Kelly's first season as Notre Dame coach, the Irish snapped that streak, 20-16, with the help of a memorable dropped pass that would have been a sure touchdown. USC came right back and won last season in South Bend, Ind., 31-17, to make it nine out of 10.

"Well, it's not a great rivalry right now," Kelly said this week. "They've had the upper hand. We need to make this a rivalry."

From the mid-80s through the mid-90s, it was USC that was trying to make it a rivalry. As USC struggled to hold its place among the elite programs in college football, the Irish often contended for national titles under Lou Holtz and went 12-0-1 against the Trojans.

Maybe expectations were too high for a USC team that lacked depth and had some question marks on both lines.

Even more startling is that it's Notre Dame that will take the field Saturday as the unbeaten No. 1 team in the country, two victories from its first national championship since 1988.

The picks:

TODAY

TCU (plus 7)at No. 18 Texas

Old Southwest Conference rivals, Frogs beat Horns once from 1968-95. ... TEXAS 32-27.

FRIDAY

No. 8 LSU (minus 12) at Arkansas

Before last year's big LSU victory, previous six meetings were one-score games. ... LSU 35-21.

No. 17 Nebraska (minus 141/2) at Iowa

Huskers clinch spot in Big Ten championship game with victory or Michigan loss. ... NEBRASKA 28-17.

Ohio (plus 101/2) at No. 23 Kent State

Golden Flashes already have MAC East title clinched. ... KENT STATE 34-27.

No. 24 Northern Illinois (minus 20) at Eastern Michigan

Huskies have MAC West title clinched. ... NORTHERN ILLINOIS 41-14.

SATURDAY

No. 1 Notre Dame (minus 7) at Southern California

USC QB Max Wittek tries to carve out spot in Trojans history in first start. ... NOTRE DAME 24-14.

Auburn (plus 311/2) at No. 2 Alabama

Nick Saban is merciful. ... ALABAMA 35-0.

Georgia Tech (plus 13) at No. 3 Georgia

SEC title game is locked up, but this is to keep Bulldogs' national championship hopes alive. ... GEORGIA 51-28.

No. 20 Michigan (plus 31/2) at No. 4 Ohio State

Perfection on line for Buckeyes in Urban Meyer's first game against Michigan. ... OHIO STATE 27-20.

No. 5 Oregon (minus 91/2) at No. 16 Oregon State

Ducks need to win and have UCLA beat Stanford to reach Pac-12 title game. ... OREGON 45-24.

No. 6 Florida (plus 8) at No. 10 Florida State

Both teams still in national title hunt. ... FLORIDA STATE 17-13.

Missouri (plus 22) at No. 9 Texas A&M

Last Heisman showcase for Johnny Football. ... TEXAS A&M 45-21.

No. 11 Stanford (minus 11/2) at No. 15 UCLA

Cardinal can clinch Pac-12 North with victory, set up rematch with Bruins in title game. ... UCLA 27-24.

UPSET SPECIAL

No. 13 South Carolina (plus 4) at No. 12 Clemson

Tigers could all but lock up BCS at-large bid. ... SOUTH CAROLINA 38-31.

BEST BET

No. 22 Oklahoma St. (plus 7) at No. 14 Oklahoma

Big 12 title still a possibility for Sooners. ... OKLAHOMA 38-24.

UConn (plus 12) at No. 19 Louisville

Cardinals a win away from BCS-bid showdown at Rutgers ... LOUISVILLE 28-13.

No. 21 Rutgers (plus 2) at Pittsburgh

No easy games for Scarlet Knights ... RUTGERS 20-17.

No. 25 Mississippi State (plus 1) at Mississippi

Bulldogs have won three straight Egg Bowls ... OLE MISS 28-24.

Idaho (plus 39) at No. 25 Utah State

Took a while for everyone to realize it, but Aggies are really good. ... UTAH STATE 48-7.

Last week's record: 15-6 (straight); 5-9 (vs. points)

Season record: 197-43 (straight); 110-104 (vs. points)

Best bets: 5-7.

Upset specials: 7-5.