NOTRE DAME — Brian Kelly would probably like to say some inspiring words on the Notre Dame-USC rivalry, but the Irish haven’t had much to brag about lately.
It’s not as though the Jeweled Shillelagh has varnished, it’s just that the rivalry has been pretty one-sided in recent years.
USC has won nine out of the last 10 meetings with the Irish dating back to Nov. 30, 2002. Officially, the 2005 “Bush Push” loss was vacated by the NCAA for rules infractions, but that still gives Notre Dame eight losses in nine meetings.
“It’s not a great rivalry right now,” Kelly said during his Tuesday press conference. “We haven’t won enough games. We need to make this a rivalry.”
Notre Dame has beaten the Trojans only once this decade, a 20-16 win in 2010, Kelly’s first year in the program.
Prior to 2002, the Irish had won 15 of 19 meetings from 1983-2001, losing only in 1996, 1997 and 1998 and finishing the Nov. 26, 1994, contest in a 17-17 tie.
This year may be the year that turns the tide in the favor of the Irish.
Notre Dame is undefeated and sitting on top of the BCS polls, whereas USC is 7-4 after a 38-28 loss to UCLA last weekend. In USC’s loss to the Bruins, starting quarterback Matt Barkley went down with a shoulder injury.
Barkley, a one-time Heisman contender, won’t dress for this week’s game. Redshirt freshman Max Wittek will start in his place.
But Kelly isn’t resting easy.
“He’s on scholarship at USC,” Kelly said of Wittek. “When you get a scholarship to USC, you’re one of the best quarterbacks in the country.”
“USC is going to play their very best,” Kelly added. “We get that every week. We get the absolute best from our opponent each and every week.”
Notre Dame has a 45-35-6 historical advantage over the Trojans heading into Saturday’s game.